Last fall, Seattle voters approved the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy. Yesterday the City Council gave its near-final approval to the paperwork required to implement it.
The big piece of work was the implementation plan, proposed by the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL). After debating several issues in the past weeks, the Council adopted nine amendments which fine-tune the plans. Among the changes they made:
- It reset some language in the plan back to longer, more inclusive verbiage in the voter-approved Levy. The Mayor’s proposal had truncated a list of prioritized students, as well as the goals for the K-12 investment area.
- The Mayor’s proposal had some fairly sweeping language that would grant DEEL a great deal of freedom in modifying the implementation plan in the future. The Council modified that language to clarify which changes would require the Council’s approval, and which would require 60-day advance notice to the Council. It also added specifics to the list of topics that DEEL needs to address in its annual report to the Council on the levy implementation. Council member Gonzalez explained that the changes bring the FEPP Levy in line with the Council’s oversight role for other levies.
- It adjusted the Seattle Preschool Program tuition scale adjustments. It sets the base family tuition as a percentage of the cost of a preschool slot (about $11,000 per year), increasing with family income. For families at the top of the income scale, tuition would be 95% of the cost; the city intentionally is choosing to provide some level of subsidy to all families so as to make the SPP as attractive as private preschools to all families and thereby encourage greater student diversity. The Council also increased the number of steps in the sliding tuition scale from 25 to 30, to smooth out the increases as income grows.
- Advertising options for part-time college students to participate in the Promise program. The program is mainly designed for full-time students, but makes allowances on a quarter-by-quarter basis for students whose situation requires them to attend part-time. That option has not been heavily advertised, however, and the Council raised the profile of it. This followed a discussion as to whether the full-time requirement was realistic given the pressures placed on the target demographics of students to financially support themselves and their families. 43% of Seattle Colleges’ enrolled students are part-time.
- It specified additional Racial Equity Toolkit analysis topics to be researched. DEEL is already committed to completing a Racial Equity Toolkit analysis to understand the impacts of the Seattle Promise program on underserved communities. The Council added that the RET should evaluate expanding the program to part-time students. It also required an analysis of the Promise program’s “Satisfactory Academic Progress” requirements to stay in the program. Students in the program are evaluated annually on whether they maintain a cumulative 2.00 grade-point average, earn a minimum number of credits versus the number attempted, and make sufficient progress toward completion of a degree or credential. The Council wishes to know whether those requirements are disproportionately impacting certain populations. It also required DEEL to consult with the FEPP Levy Oversight Committee before recommending changes to the program.
- It added specific requirements to the types of referral and connection services that should be provided to Promise students by Seattle Colleges advisors.
- It added “adherence to labor laws” and a commitment to labor harmony to the list of criteria that DEEL will use to evaluate RFP and RFI proposals associated with the levy implementation.
All three documents will come before the full Council on Monday afternoon for final approval.