Addressing equity in education and health are paramount challenges to ensure everyone has access to opportunity in Seattle. It is imperative that we proactively support Seattle Public School students and improved food access with front-line programs that put equity first. Healthy kids get better educations and are more likely to have a brighter future.
– Mayor Ed Murray
Despite significant efforts to provide an equitable education system, a persistent opportunity gap exists between white and Black students in education. In Seattle, public school students of color meet third grade reading standards at a rate 31 percent lower than white students.
To close the achievement gap, Mayor Ed Murray has proposed an $18 million funding measure to support education and healthy food programs. Through a tax on sweetened beverages, investments in the Seattle Education Action Plan can be implemented using guidelines recommended by the Mayor's Education Summit Advisory Group that are directly tied to eliminating educational disparities for African American/Black students and other students of color.
Closing the achievement gap
Under the Mayor Murray's proposal, $9.7 million will be dedicated annually to investments for before after school opportunities such as STEM extracurricular classes; adding more mentors in schools, particularly Black male mentors; reducing discipline disparities by providing personalized case management and providing special training to teachers; expanding summer learning programs; funding more Internships; and diversifying teaching staff.
Making college more attainable
Seattle’s economy is booming but most jobs require a post secondary credential out of reach for many students of color. Of the revenue raised in the first year from a tax on sweetened beverages, 20 percent will be invested in one-time start-up costs or time-limited projects, including $5 million to expand the 13th Year program – an investment intended to ensure all Seattle Public Schools graduates can attend at least one year at the Seattle Colleges. Expanding 13th Year scholarships and college and workplace readiness programs can allow more young people from here to take advantage of the local economy.
Increasing parental support and childhood early development
In addition to support for K-12 and college-readiness programs, a tax on sweetened beverages will allow for a nearly $6 million annual investment in early education and prenatal programs such as home visits with low-income pregnant mothers that can better equip parents and children for school and life.
Supporting healthy food access
Academic achievement and nutrition go hand in hand. Mayor Murray proposes a $3.2 million annual investment in the Fresh Bucks program that funds a match of purchases at Farmers Markets for low-income recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The Fresh Bucks program is supported by federal funding which is not expected to be renewed by the Trump Administration. Additional health investments will also address food insecurity for households that do not qualify for SNAP or who may be unauthorized immigrants.
Confronting the health impacts of sweetened beverages
Students of color are more likely to face health problems than their white counterparts. We also know that good health translates into improved academic achievement. King County found that African-American male students who have access to school-based health services were three times more likely to stay in school than peers who did not access the programs.
Seattle can raise $18 million annually for our education and health agenda with a 1.75 cents per ounce tax on sweetened drinks like soda, energy and sports drinks, artificial fruit drinks, and ready-to-drink coffee drinks.
This Sugar Sweetened Beverage Tax is expected to dramatically reduce consumption of these unhealthy products—just as a similar tax in Berkeley has now reduced consumption by 20 percent.