In the News
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
LEON COUNTY, FL, SEPTEMBER 13, 2020 – Backers and critics sparred over the merits of creating a new property tax to address children’s issues during a virtual town hall meeting.
Supporters say problems will persist without intervention and advocacy for the creation of a Children’s Services Council in Leon County.
The timing, opponents say, couldn’t be worse for a tax increase during an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, they express deep concern over how new tax revenue will be effective, adding efforts to address children’s issues can be achieved with existing groups or revenue sources. In roughly two months, a referendum to create the CSC goes before voters in the general election. If approved, it would be the 10th in the state and would decide its focus areas based on broad-brush guidelines spelled out in statute. Read more.