Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL)

Infrastructure to Support Early Childhood Systems

  • Administrative + Governance Models

Seattle, Washington

Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) was created to support the educational and developmental needs of children in Seattle from birth to postsecondary programs. DEEL is responsible for leadership, direction, policy development, interdepartmental and interagency communication and coordination for early learning programs and education programs and policies and serves as the city’s higher education liaison. It works in partnership with the Seattle School District No. 1 (Seattle Public Schools), the Seattle Colleges, government agencies, and community-based organizations.

DEEL’s nationally recognized Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) provides universal access to preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. The program has grown from serving 280 children in 2015 to more than 2,130 children during the 2022–23 school year, with 75 percent of children attending at no cost. With 138 classrooms across 90 sites, 76 of which are operated by community-based providers, 36 by Seattle Public Schools, and 26 by family child care providers, SPP offers culturally responsive curricula to a diverse population of children and families. DEEL’s Early Learning division also oversees the city’s Child Care Assistance Program and has provided essential supports to stabilize the child care industry during the pandemic with the goal of strengthening the city’s early learning ecosystem.

Source: Office of the Mayor (2022). Seattle Preschool Program Expands for 2022-2023

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:

Strong infrastructure and systems – including governance structures and data systems – are key aspects of high-quality early education and care. And research suggests there is a need for more accessible, affordable, and high-quality early education within a mixed-delivery system; strengthening infrastructure and systems is one important way states and cities can take action to address these needs and accomplish these goals.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) that connect to the need for more robust infrastructure and systems, including data systems:

  • Families rely on a range of formal (e.g., Head Start, center-based care, public pre-K) and more informal (e.g., home-based, relative care) early education settings; when choosing a setting for their child, families balance many logistical constraints and personal preferences.
  • But for many families – and especially low- and middle-income families – early education choices remain tightly constrained due to issues of affordability and supply.
  • No one early education setting type is inherently of higher quality than another; children develop and learn well in every setting type, and in the study, all setting types showed room to grow in quality.
  • We have learned a great deal from this groundbreaking, large-scale study. Nevertheless, there is still much to learn about what children, families, and educators need, and about what “works” – for whom and under what circumstances – across all the diverse settings where young children learn and grow.
Learn More about ELS@H Findings

Learn more about Seattle

Context matters. Visit the Seattle profile page to learn more about the city landscape.

Visit the Seattle Profile Here
  • The city population is 733,919
  • The percentage of children under age 5 is 4.60%
  • The median family income among households with children is $198,300.00