Best Starts for Kids is a levy proposed by Executive Constantine to invest in prevention and early intervention so that more children and youth in King County reach adulthood healthy and ready to succeed. It will be the most comprehensive approach to childhood development in the nation, starting with prenatal support, sustaining the gain through teenage years, and investing in safe, healthy communities that reinforce progress.
To learn more, visit the Best Starts for Kids website.
King County Executive Dow Constantine declared victory for Best Starts for Kids, a six-year levy that will invest in prevention and early intervention strategies to increase the number of children and youth who reach adulthood healthy and ready to succeed.
It will be the most comprehensive approach to early childhood development in the nation, starting with prenatal support, sustaining the gain through teenage years, and investing in healthy, safe communities that reinforce progress.
“This is a victory for children, youth and families across King County—and our opportunity to transition to upstream solutions,” said Executive Constantine. “Best Starts for Kids is the comprehensive, performance-driven, science-based approach that will create a national model for expanding opportunity."
The levy will generate about $65 million per year and cost the average King County property owner an estimated $56 per year, which is about one dollar per week.
Unlike other metropolitan regions in the U.S. that primarily focus on preschool, King County's strategy includes birth through age 5, intervention as the brain continues to grow through age 24, and healthy communities that reinforce progress. It will complement Seattle's preschool program by increasing the number of children who arrive at school healthy and ready to learn.
"As economic disadvantage increasingly locates outside of inner cities, Best Starts would send a promising signal that counties are stepping up to address the root causes of poverty across urban and suburban lines," said Alan Berube, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution.
Best Starts for Kids is based on neuroscience
Learn more about James Heckman's research on the great gains to be had by investing in early development.
The framework for Best Starts for Kids is based on the latest neuroscience that identifies key developmental milestones.
- 50 percent of the funding will invest in early childhood development, from birth through age 5, when 92 percent of brain growth occurs.
- 35 percent will invest in intervention strategies that address problems—such as serious depression and addiction—as they emerge while the brain continues to develop through age 24.
- 10 percent will go toward Communities of Opportunity, a partnership between King County and The Seattle Foundation to create healthy, safe communities that reinforce a child’s progress.
- 5 percent will pay for rigorous assessment, data collection and evaluation.
An oversight and advisory board will provide guidance on implementation and monitor progress. Most of the funds will go to community-based nonprofit organizations.
One initiative the county will immediately begin work on is a youth and family homelessness prevention program based on a successful pilot project led by the Gates Foundation.
Transitioning to less expensive upstream solutions
Best Starts for Kids will help King County transition to less expensive, more effective upstream solutions to costly challenges such as mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, domestic violence, and incarceration.
A state law that went into effect in 2000 caps property-tax revenue at 1 percent, significantly lower than population and inflation growth. This has created a chronic revenue shortfall in the county’s General Fund and limited its ability to pay for prevention and early intervention programs.
By the time the County pays for law enforcement, courts, and jails — which account for about 75 percent of the General Fund — as well as the increasing costs of mental-health and addiction services, there is little money left for strategies that reduce demand for crisis-oriented services.
Strategies to confront growing inequities in our region
Best Starts for Kids is designed to confront the region’s growing inequity by providing parents, caregivers, and childcare professionals with tools to ensure every child in King County develops the basic skills necessary to thrive as adults.
Examples of Best Starts for Kids strategies include:
- Universal access to developmental screenings for very young children, when it is proven to be most effective at helping infants and toddlers prepare for school.
- Increased access to mental-health screenings for middle school-age youth.
- Nurse home visitations for first-time mothers—from pregnancy through a child’s first two years—to make sure they get off to a strong, healthy start.
- Flexible funding for families to prevent homelessness. For example, helping a working mother keep her transportation so she can make it to work and not lose her job, decreasing the likelihood that she and her family become homeless.
- Overview of Best Starts for Kids
- VIDEO: Executive's plan to invest in prevention and early intervention CLIP
- VIDEO: World-class brain research shapes Best Starts for Kids CLIP
- Examples of programs the levy will fund
- Translated details of the levy
- The Heckman Equation: Invest earlier for best outcomes
This is a victory for children, youth and families across King County -- and our opportunity to transition to upstream solutions. Best Starts for Kids is the comprehensive, performance-driven, science-based approach that will create a national model for expanding opportunity.
As economic disadvantage increasingly locates outside of inner cities, Best Starts would send a promising signal that counties are stepping up to address the root causes of poverty across urban and suburban lines.
For more information, contact:
Chad Lewis, Executive Office, 206-263-1250