by Shannon Braddock and Joe Nguyen
Our children and their futures transcend all partisanship and political differences. We may be running against each other for public office, but there’s one thing we enthusiastically agree on: we must do more to help Seattle’s children, particularly at-risk kids, get the high-quality education they deserve. That is why the both of us support the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise (FEPP) levy on the November ballot. The FEPP levy will provide major educational benefits to thousands of Seattle kids at a modest cost.
It replaces and enhances the expiring Preschool Levy, which funds subsidized high-quality preschool; replaces the expiring Families and Education levy, which funds proven K-12 support programs; and provides funding for the Seattle Promise scholarship program, which will expand access to community college for all Seattle public high school grads.
Studies have shown that quality preschool helps children throughout their lives by shaping their ability to learn. The FEPP levy expands Seattle’s quality subsidized preschool program from 1,500 to 2,500 children. We can help give every child the chance to succeed by providing high-quality preschool with a vetted, age-appropriate curriculum of instruction to children who otherwise would likely not be able to afford it.
Moreover, the FEPP levy helps prevent high-risk students from dropping out. In Seattle, just 79 percent of students graduate from Seattle Public Schools, with only 68 percent of low-income students and an even lower percentage of students of color finishing high school. The levy-funded K-12 programs help kids deal with the challenges they face through counseling and social services, in addition to academic support.
This levy funds after and out of school activities programs that give extra help to the children who need it most. By catching problems early on and offering extra support and academic help, this levy provides every child with opportunities to succeed, and opens doors for their futures.
In the next five years, Washington State will add nearly 750,000 new jobs, most of which will require some education or training after high school. Today, only about 31 percent of Washington high school graduates go on to complete a degree or certificate. The new Seattle Promise program, funded by the levy, will help close this gap. The pilot Promise Scholarship program has already helped more than 500 high school graduates enroll in community college, creating new paths to opportunity for Seattle’s kids.
Because this levy replaces two expiring levies, the additional cost for the typical Seattle household is only about $9 a month. That’s a reasonable price to pay for helping thousands of Seattle’s children receive the opportunity in life they deserve.
Moreover, there are safeguards in place to ensure that every dollar is used to its full potential. This levy includes strong oversight at low cost—levy administration costs are only about seven percent —and the levy has a citizen oversight board that works to ensure that levy funds are spent efficiently and effectively to help Seattle students.
By focusing on early learning through college or a job, this comprehensive levy sends a message to every family and child that if you work hard we will support you and make sure that your efforts open the door to opportunity. We owe every kid in Seattle at least that much.
Joe Nguyen and Shannon Braddock are the two candidates on the November ballot for the State Senate seat in the 34th Legislative District.