Seattle Mayor Ed Murray speaks on the proposed Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) on September 2, 2014. • Photo by City of Seattle
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray speaks on the proposed Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) on September 2, 2014. • Photo by City of Seattle

Mayor Ed Murray proposed the creation of a new Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) today. The department is part of a larger plan to reorganize the city’s education and support programs. The proposal is the first of more to come in Murray’s first city budget.

“Equity in education is the foundation of our democracy and the future of our city,” Murray said at a press conference. “The city already supports programs across the continuum from birth through college, but we must do better to align resources for better outcomes for education. We will sharpen our focus on achieving great outcomes for all, so that none of Seattle’s students are left behind. We want Seattle to be the first city in America that eliminates the achievement gap.”

The mayor said the new structure will enable the city to better coordinate existing work and resources on behalf of students of all ages, improve collaboration with Seattle Public Schools, colleges and child-care providers, and increase performance measurement of the city’s work to support educational outcomes.

The city said that economic disparities contribute to a persistent achievement gap in Seattle and that students with higher educational attainment have higher average earning power over a career.

“All of Seattle’s children must have the same opportunity to succeed in school and in life,” Brianna Jackson said in a statement. Jackson is Executive Director of the Community Day School Association. “By improving coordination across the entire system, from Early Learning to our universities, and by working together as an education community, we know we can achieve better outcomes for all students.”

Last fall, the City Council adopted a budget action asking the mayor to develop a proposal to elevate the city’s emphasis around education. The council voiced interest in aligning the city’s education and early learning programs, preparing for a universal preschool program, and improving collaboration with the school district.

DEEL would be responsible for supporting early learning, K-12, and higher education in Seattle. Most of the positions in the new department would be filled by existing city employees moving from Seattle’s Human Services Department, Office for Education, and other organizations. Existing functions consolidated into DEEL will include:

• Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, Comprehensive Child Care Program and other early learning services and initiatives

• Elementary, Middle School, and High School academic and social support programs

• School-based health services operated by the city

• Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative

• All Families and Education Levy programs

Nine new positions would be created to step up coordination with area colleges and universities, ensure the quality of city child care programs and pre-schools, and increase data collection to track the effectiveness of the department’s activities.

The new department would house 38 employees and manage a budget of $48.5 million, including $30 million each year from the voter-approved Families and Education Levy.

The mayor’s proposal will be included in his budget submission to the City Council on September 22.

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