'Tracking the Truth' of TV Ads:  Seattle Pre-K Initiatives

SEATTLE -- On the Seattle ballots this fall, there are two competing initiatives to bolster preschool and early learning.

Supporters of each are fighting it out over the airwaves about what is the best approach.  Voters will have to choose one or the other in November.

Proposition 1A

Prop. 1A calls for child care subsidies for families, creates a training institute for workers, and sets an immediate $15 minimum wage for the industry.

The main TV ad features a preschool teacher who says she can’t afford to stay in the field because of the low wage.

“It’s hard on our kids that almost 40% of Seattle’s child care staff leave each year,” she says, “leading to learning and behavior problems.”

It does appear that high turnover can lead to problems with kids.

But our research finds that the ad’s 40% figure is:  Misleading.

That turnover rate refers only to early learning teaching assistants.  The rate for full teachers is less than half.  So, the situation is not as chaotic as this ad suggests.

Proposition 1B

Prop. 1B is a four-year, $58 million levy to support 2000 preschool slots.  Much of the money would go to subsidize low income families.

The latest TV ad features former Mayor Norm Rice, who takes aim at the competing measure.  “1A isn’t paid for,” Rice says, “So, if it passes, the city will have to cut up to $100 million from other services, such as transportation and public safety.”

We label this assertion:  Speculation.

While Prop 1A doesn’t have a funding source, its vague language makes any costs hard to calculate.  Moreover, whatever money is needed wouldn’t necessarily have to come from existing services.  It could be raised by increasing taxes or fees.   The City Council would ultimately decide.