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Latte for Little Ones

Teachers and parents in Seattle are backing a local group's proposal to help children by taxing one of their city's best-known products: espresso.

The Early Learning and Care Committee, a nonprofit organization formed to help campaign for a proposed ballot initiative, is seeking a 10-cent tax on the privilege of serving espresso drinks within the city limits.

Advocates estimate the tax would provide an extra $7 million to $10 million a year for the city to improve early-childhood teachers' pay through a "career and wage ladder" that would give them pay raises for achieving educational milestones.

The state is pilot-testing a similar program, but it serves only 7 percent of licensed child-care centers.

A city-financed program would make it possible for nearly 260 centers, serving 12,500 families, to participate, supporters say. Funding would also support teacher training, quality care, and facility improvements.

Any business that generated more than $50,000 a year in revenue from the sale of espresso drinks would be subject to the tax, which would be calculated per drink served. Michael Kasprzak, the project's campaign treasurer and the director of the Interlake Childcare Center, says espresso is just the cup of tea needed to provide an extra source of support for Seattle's child-care providers.

"This tax covers a huge pool of people, including tourists," he said, arguing that the tax should be appealing because it wouldn't have a severe impact on any one group. While the notion of an espresso tax may seem silly at first, he said, the long-term benefits could make a big difference in early-childhood education.

The committee launched the campaign earlier this year and brought the proposed initiative before the city attorney last week for approval. The committee would then need to collect nearly 18,000 signatures from registered voters in the next month to get the measure on the November ballot.

—Marianne D. Hurst

Vol. 21, Issue 40, Page 3

Published in Print: June 12, 2002, as Take Note

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