In the News

Wake County NC Expands Pre-K to Three-Year Olds

Wake County NC announced it will now offer pre-kindergarten to eligible three-year-olds starting in 2022. Since 2015, the county has supplemented the state NC Pre-K program to support more 4-year-old children’s kindergarten readiness. With 86% of eligible children accessing NC Pre-K in Wake County, Commissioners voted to create Wake ThreeSchool for three-year-olds. With Wake County being the largest school system in the state, ensuring more children are ready for kindergarten is significant. Read the county’s press release here. Read our original case study of Wake County that describes its investment in NC Pre-K.

Voters Now View Child Care as an Essential Service Like Healthcare and Education

The results of a new national poll from the First Five Years Fund (FFYF) reveal the clear impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on voters’ views of America’s child care system—and the need for a significant public investment in meaningful child care policy solutions for working families and providers. No longer can lawmakers and candidates for office view child care as a “nice-to-have” service, when voters now clearly see it as something that is essential for children, families, and America’s economy.

Regardless of party, voters overwhelmingly say high-quality, affordable child care for families with young children is an essential service—just like healthcare and education.

A majority of voters—particularly women—say the COVID crisis has shown us how essential it is that we build a child care system that makes care available and affordable to all families who need it.  Read more.

Diversified Funding Streams Can Deliver Educational Equity for Young Children

Access to high-quality early childhood programs for young children from under-resourced and overburdened families because of systemic racist policies, can provide an equal footing to achieve school readiness and lifelong employment, improve their social and cognitive development, and improve academic achievement. A new issue brief released by The Hunt Institute highlights the importance of public investment through diverse funding mechanisms (federal, state and local) to ensure educational equity for young children. Because 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before kindergarten, the early years (birth-to-age-five) are the most critical period of life for rapid brain development and foundational growth.

As states continue to recognize the return on investment in funding early childhood programs – $8.60 for every $1 spent – seven states voted on ballot measures to fund early childhood initiatives during the November 3, 2020 election:

  • Colorado’s tax on nicotine products
  • San Antonio, Texas – renewal measure
  • St. Louis, Missouri – six-cent property tax for early childhood services for infants to 5-year-olds
  • San Joaquin County, California’s Measure X
  • Cincinnati, Ohio – renewal on a 73-cent property tax, originally passed in 2016
  • Escambia and Leon counties, Florida – property tax revenue to fund cradle-to-career services

Read more about each of the victories and types of funding mechanisms here.

On the local level, dedicated fees and taxes through property, sales, school and income taxes are some of the ways early childhood education is financed. Through NC Early Childhood Foundation’s Local Funding for Early Learning: A Community Toolkit, there are in-depth case studies that detail local, public funding (municipal or county level) for children – from early learning to literacy programs. In North Carolina:

  • Expanding the County’s Budget: In Wake County, the 2015 budget for Wake County included $325,728 to expand NC Pre-K classrooms to serve more children. By 2017, the budget was increased to $488,600 with another $100,000 dollar-for-dollar match to encourage community investment. The additional investments since 2015 now provide access to NC Pre-K to 359 children.
  • Property Tax and County Budget Allocation: With 19.8 percent of children under the age five in Mecklenburg county living in poverty, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved $6 million each for Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019 county budget to reduce the child care subsidy waiting list for children under age five. The BOCC approved an increase in the property tax rate of three-quarters of a penny to raise more than $9 million to open 33 new public pre-k classrooms, referred to as “MECK Pre-K”.

For North Carolina communities interested in learning more about local financing, please contact Lisa Finaldi at

One Year Ago, 90 Percent of San Antonio’s 4-Year-Olds Were Enrolled in School: Now, an Ambitious Texas Early Ed Program is Crumbling Under the Weight of the Pandemic

SAN ANTONIO, TX, JANUARY 6, 2021 – For Sarah Baray, a dream seemed within reach as 2020 opened. More four-year-olds than ever before would spend at least part of their days in San Antonio classrooms, giggling and exploring with teachers skillfully guiding their play into crucial learning.

After four years as chief executive of an ambitious program to bring pre-K programs to San Antonio’s children, Baray saw it becoming an equalizer in the nation’s seventh largest city, just as she knew it could.

Ninety percent of San Antonio’s 25,000 4-year-olds were enrolled in pre-K at the beginning of the year – a pacesetting goal for Texas and the nation.

These joyful, creative classrooms were not just in exclusive private preschools and wealthy suburbs. They were all over the city — in neighborhoods where parents could not afford elite private schools, and in elementary schools where nearly every child qualified for free and reduced lunch.

Not only were more children being reached, but pre-K classrooms had been getting better. At private centers, teachers were learning new techniques to take play time and turn it into rich fodder for learning patience and patterns. Public schools were going from half-day programs to full-day, doubling the time for stories, play-dough numbers, yoga, and scissor skills. Read more.

Voters in Seven States Say YES to Fund Children’s Programs

Ballot initiatives don’t receive much reporting outside of the state where they happen. Yet these November 3rd asks of voters in seven states (six at the local level) are worthy of understanding and celebrating.

In Multnomah County, Oregon; Colorado; San Antonio, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; San Joaquin County, California; Leon and Escambia counties in Florida; and Cincinnati, Ohio, voters approved new or increased spending on children’s early care and learning programs. Various financing mechanisms will be used – from income tax increases on high-wage earners, to a tax on nicotine products and marijuana sales, to other increases in sales tax and property tax. Each mechanism to raise revenue has strengths and weaknesses – some progressive and some regressive – what’s most important is that a transformation is under way. The Children’s Funding Project estimates revenue for young children generated from these initiatives total $500 million/year.

The ballot initiatives all won by strong margins. They will fund preschool, increasing wages for early childhood teachers, infant care, literacy and after school programs, and cradle to career services. Several aspire to universal preschool, and two were renewals of previously passed measures.

We have counted at least 50 local ballot initiatives to fund children’s programs dating back to the 1980’s that have passed and less than a dozen that have failed. We’ve mapped many of them here.

Read the roundup about the recent victories below. Here’s a map from the Children’s Funding project to share.

• Multnomah County, Oregon: Voters approved an income tax increase on high earners to fund universal, tuition-free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-old children by 2030. The tax will generate an estimated $133 million next year (and $202 million annually by 2026). Funds will add 7,000 new slots by fall 2026 with fair wages for providers and high-quality, culturally responsive opportunities that meet children’s needs. The New York Times reported the wages will be equal to those of kindergarten teachers.

• Colorado: Voters approved a tax on nicotine products that will raise $87 million in 2021 (projected to increase to $276 million by 2028). The revenue will fund rural schools, state health and housing programs, the education budget for the first two years, and universal preschool for potentially more than 75% of the state’s 4-year-olds starting in 2023.

• San Antonio, Texas – Renewal: A measure originally passed in 2012 was renewed last week. It will keep a 1/8 cent local sales tax in place to support the city’s pre-K program, Pre-K 4 SA. The high-quality program serves 2,000 4-year-olds at no cost to parents each year. You can read our original case study here.

• St. Louis, Missouri: Voters passed a measure to implement a six-cent property tax that will raise $2.3 million a year for early childhood services for infants to 5-year-olds. Learn more about the initiative here.

• San Joaquin County, California: Voters passed Measure X, a county-wide tax on marijuana sales. Fifty percent of that revenue will fund preschool, home visiting, childhood literacy programs, after-school programs, and drug prevention and intervention programs.

• Cincinnati, Ohio – Renewal: Voters renewed a 73-cent property tax, originally passed in 2016, to raise $48 million over five years for the public school system. Thirty percent of the revenue will fund the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which has served 5,000 3-and 4-year-olds in the last four years. You can read our original case study here.

• Escambia and Leon counties, Florida: These counties joined 10 others in Florida that have dedicated property tax revenue for Children’s Services Councils to fund cradle-to-career services.

For several years, we have seen national and statewide polls showing strong support and building momentum for expanding early learning programs for young children. In North Carolina, in 2014, 2016 and 2018, NCECF and the bipartisan polling team of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research, found that support for early childhood investments has grown significantly in our state.

• In 2018, the percentage of North Carolina voters saying we should do more for young children’s education increased by 15 points since 2014 to 80 percent, including a 15-point increase among Republicans, a four-point increased among Democrats and a 27 percent increase among Independents.

• Eighty percent of North Carolina voters said early education should be a higher priority than reducing business taxes in the state. Majorities across all parties agree, including 60 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Independents, and 94 percent of Democrats.

The NCECF website Local Funding for Early Learning: A Community Toolkit details funding mechanisms available to local communities in North Carolina, case studies from our state (Mecklenburg and Wakecounties) and across the country as well as tools to prepare for a funding initiative. Is your community ready? 

For North Carolina communities interested in learning more about local financing, please contact Lisa Finaldi at

Thanks to the Children’s Funding project for cataloguing the proposals last month to make it easy for the rest of us to keep track! And a special thank you to Alexandra Sirota at the NC Budget and Tax Center for keeping this issue front and center as communities consider these opportunities for the future.

Voters Approve New Escambia Children’s Children’s Trust And Small Property Tax Increase To Fund It

ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FL, NOVEMBER 4, 2020 – Escambia County voters approved a new Children’s Services Council (CSC).

Complete, but unofficial, totals show 97,625 Escambia County residents (60.90%) voted in favor of creating the Escambia Children’s Trust, while 62,689 (39.10%) voted against

The Escambia Children’s Trust is the proposed name for the CSC in Escambia County. The sole purpose of a CSC is to invest in the well-being of children by maximizing resources and ensuring accountability. The trust will not deliver service. Instead, it will fund community providers who can demonstrate measurable desired outcomes through a competitive review and accountability process.

The Escambia Children’s Trust will receive a new 0.5 mill county property tax that will cost the average Escambia County homeowner $40 per year. Other property owners will pay an average of $67 per year. The additional half mill will not be collected until 2022.

Of the funds collected, 90% of funds will go into direct programing, 4% will be  paid to the Escambia County Tax Collector for collecting the funds, and 6% will be used by the trust for administrative costs. The trust will have an initial 10 year life before it must go back to the voters.

A 10-member board will govern the Escambia Children’s Trust. Five members will be appointed by the governor. The other five members will be the superintendent of schools, one school board member, the district administrator for the Department of Children and Families; one member of the Escambia County Commission and a  a judge assigned to juvenile cases. Read more.

Property Tax to Fund Early Childhood Services

ST. LOUIS, MO, NOVEMBER 3, 2020 – St. Louis Proposition R, a property tax to fund early childhood services measure, was on the ballot as a referral in St. Louis on November 3, 2020. It was approved.

A “yes” vote supports authorizing an additional property tax of $60 per $100,000 in assessed value to generate an estimated $2.3 million per year in revenue for childhood services for children five years of age or younger. The assessed value of property is a percentage of actual or market value.

A “no” vote opposes this measure to authorize an additional property tax of $60 per $100,000 in assessed value to fund early childhood services, thereby leaving the city’s existing property tax rate of $190 per $100,000 in assessed value in place.In Missouri, property is assessed at various percentages of market or actual value depending on the type of property:

  • Houses – 19% of actual value
  • Farm machines – 12% of actual value
  • Historic cars and planes – 5% of actual value
  • Crops – 0.5% of actual value
  • Other vehicles – 33.3% of actual value

This means that a home with the median actual value of $140,000 for St. Louis would be assessed at $26,600. This means the Proposition R tax would be $15.96 for this home. Read more.

PreK 4 SA, San Antonio’s Popular City-Run Pre-K Program, Wins Another 8 Years

SAN ANTONIO, TX, NOVEMBER 4, 2020 – San Antonio voters overwhelmingly elected to renew the city’s popular pre-k program, PreK 4 SA, drowning out any remaining questions about the program’s benefits.

The eight-year-old early childhood education initiative has so far served over 12,000 students in its four brick and mortar centers, with additional estimates near 200,000 served by professional development programs and grants to other pre-k providers.

Under the ballot measure Proposition A, voters opted to renew PreK 4 SA through the existing ⅛ cent sales tax, which generated $36.4 million in 2019. While skeptics have long questioned the per-student cost of the learning centers, at just over $11,000 per student, proponents point out that this is still lower than the national average, even if it is higher than local school districts.

Supporters also campaigned on a 2019 study showing that PreK 4 SA delivers a $3,790+ return on investment for each student enrolled. Read more.

Colorado Voters Approve Tax Increase, New Taxes on Tobacco and Nicotine with Prop. EE’s Passage

DENVER, CO, NOVEMBER 3, 2020 – Colorado voters approved sweeping new taxes on nicotine and tobacco products that are expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the state and significantly raise the price of cigarettes and other tobacco and vaping products.

The Associated Press called the race around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, with 69% of Coloradans voting in favor of Proposition EE’s passage, compared to 31% who voted against it.

The measure was referred to Colorado voters by state lawmakers as part of HB20-1427 as the state tries to address its high teen vaping rates and other tobacco and nicotine use.

Proposition EE’s approval will create a new tax for nicotine and vaping products and increase existing taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products, which Legislative Council Staff estimated would raise around $250 million in revenue this fiscal year and next. Read more.

How an Oregon Measure for Universal Preschool Could Be a National Model

MULTNOMAH COUNTY, OR, NOVEMBER 7, 2020 – On Election Day, Multnomah County, which includes Portland, Ore., passed one of the most progressive universal preschool policies in the nation.

The measure, to be paid for by a large tax on high earners, will provide free preschool for all children ages 3 and 4, in public schools and in existing and new private preschools and home-based child care centers. It will also significantly raise teachers’ wages so they are equivalent to those of kindergarten teachers.

It seeks to overcome the central problem in early childhood care and education: It is unaffordable for many families, yet teachers are underpaid. The solution, Multnomah County voters decided, is to finance preschool with public funding instead of private tuition, and to pay teachers much more.

It also seeks to overcome some of the pitfalls of universal preschool policies in places like New York and Washington, D.C. In doing so, early childhood researchers say the policy could serve as a blueprint for the rest of the country.

“This was focused on access to quality preschool, so when children enter kindergarten, they are able to succeed,” said Jessica Vega Pederson, a county commissioner and a chairwoman, with Sahar Muranovic, of the measure’s steering committee. “And to do that, we needed to raise wages.” Read more.