- Associated Press - Thursday, May 15, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants to raise property taxes to pay for high quality preschool for the city’s 3- and 4-year-olds.

Murray says the preschool plan would help close the widening opportunity gap between rich and poor children and help prepare Seattle kids for success in school and life.

“One of the most important questions we face as a society is: what can we do to build a school system that works equally and fairly for all of our children,” Murray said in a written statement. “The answer starts long before our children show up for their first day of kindergarten.”

The four-year property tax levy would raise an estimated $14.5 million a year and get another 2,000 children in 100 preschool classrooms by 2018.

The program would be phased in over time and would be voluntary for preschool providers and participants. It would involve both Seattle Public Schools and private preschools. The idea of universal preschool has been endorsed by the school district and the City Council.

The long-term goal would be to provide preschool to every 3- and 4-year-old from a family making less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level in Seattle.

Families making up to twice the federal poverty level - about $47,700 for a family of four - would get free preschool for their young children. Others would pay more, along a sliding scale. For example, families making about $167,000 a year, would pay half tuition.

Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess says the council will discuss the plan and consider it for the November ballot.

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