Washington State is heavily invested in improving educational equity, and has been for some time. Two of the state’s student aid programs are among the best in the nation: the College Bound Scholarship, which offers tuition aid for every student who maintains a 2.0 GPA from grades 8 through 12, and stays out of legal trouble, and the State Need Grant, which helps those who don’t qualify for the first.
Now, Proposition 1, a Seattle levy that sought to make community college free for all the city’s students has received the thumbs-up from voters.
The new levy, called the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy, is meant to raise approximately $620 million over the next seven years. The money will come from Seattle property taxes, at a little less than $100 per $275,000 assessed value. This is nearly double the previous educational levy in Seattle, which expired this year.
Out of that pool, $40.7 million is dedicated to making community college throughout Seattle free for all, a provision called “Seattle Promise” by Mayor Jenny Durkan.
During her run for mayor, free college was part of Durkan’s platform. “I really believe we have a city that is committed to opportunity for all,” she said. “This is a program that can move the needle on equity more than almost any other program.”
Opponents to this aspect of the levy contest that it isn’t needed, from an equity standpoint. In addition to the College Bound Scholarship and the State Need Grant, Washington State also has Running Start, which offers two years of free college at any state community college and several universities.
Despite all of these opportunities, there are still a number of disparities. For instance, while black and white high school graduates both enter college at similar rates, 13 percent fewer black students achieve a degree. Just why is unclear, but creating as many paths to graduation as possible can only help.
In a statement about the passage of Proposition 1, Mayor Durkan said, “Tonight, we celebrate a victory for opportunity for kids and families across Seattle, and a victory for a more affordable future. Tonight, we said loud and clear we believe that every young person in Seattle deserves the chance to succeed—and we will support them from preschool through college.”
Durkan added, “I am so grateful to the people of Seattle for making this investment in our young people and opening doors to opportunity. Now, we must work together to continue closing the opportunity gap, putting more young people on a path to good-paying jobs, and creating a more affordable future for our children. Thank you, Seattle.”