Preschool teachers form separate ballot initiative for minimum wage

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

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SEATTLE —

Another group may be adding a ballot initiative concerning minimum wage, this time only applying to preschool teachers as it relates to the city’s attempt at universal pre-K.

A group called Yes for Early Success, backed by Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Teachers, has started collecting signatures. 

They are asking for a $15 minimum wage for all child care workers at companies with more than 250 employees. For child care centers with fewer than 250 employees, they would start paying their workers $11 an hour starting Jan. 1. They would then gradually increase to $15 an hour by 2018.

The pattern is similar for a group called 15Now, which has already filed a charter amendment to achieve the same goal for all workers in the city of Seattle.

The Yes for Early Success initiativem, however, has other elements to support quality, accessible preschool.

A yes vote would mean: 

-$15-an-hour minimum wage for large child care companies

-$11-an-hour minimum wage for small companies, to be phased into $15 an hour in 3 years

-No family should pay more than 10 percent of income on child care

-Ban on violent felons from providing professional child care, even at unlicensed facilities

-Required enhanced training for child care teachers and staff

The initiative would also create a small business development fund, sourced by a tax levy, to help subsidize smaller child care centers as they increase wages.

That tax levy is something city leaders are considering in their own plan for universal preschool, to be announced in the coming months.

In preliminary discussions however, the city’s plan would make the program voluntary. Only child care centers who wish to receive a subsidy must follow the standards the committee develops.

Kendra Liddell works as a preschool teacher at Community Day Center for Children.

She gets paid $11 an hour at the small center. While her wages would not go up in January 2015, she would see an increase over three years to $15 an hour if the initiative passed.

Liddell said it’s a struggle to make a living and raise her son, so she works two other jobs.

But she’s not just supporting the initiative for the higher pay. She’s also passionate about getting thorough training on childhood emotional development.

“I believe teachers will be more empowered once we get that proper training,” Liddell said.

KIRO 7 called KinderCare and Bright Horizons, two child care companies with more than 250 employees that would be affected by an immediate jump to $15 an hour.

Neither responded before this story aired.

KIRO 7 also called five smaller child care centers. The manager of one center said he would support paying his staff more, but while not knowing how subsidies might work, increases in wages would definitely mean increases to tuition.

Yolanda Cieters pays almost $2,500 a month for her two daughters to go to day care.

“I am definitely in favor of affordable day care, and I would not be opposed at all on a tax,” Cieters said.

She said she also supports her children’s teachers getting paid more.

“They spend so much quality time, and they really give their everything to our children. They're really skilled at what they do, and they receive a decent wage for the important role they play,” Cieters said.

However, she said if increased tax revenue did not adequately subsidize child care centers, tuition increases may make for some tough choices for parents.