City of Cincinnati

Renewed Property Tax Referendum

In November 2020, Cincinnati voters approved Issue 17, a renewal of Issue 44, with 69 percent of the vote. Issue 44 will continue funding CPP through a property tax.  The tax leverages a rate of $734 per $100,000 of assessed property value. The estimated revenue raised from the passage of Issue 17 is $48 million—the same as the first levy.

Issue 44, commonly known as Preschool Promise, first passed in November 2016 with a 62 percent majority. From the $48 million generated each year, $15 million is earmarked to expand quality preschool through CPP programs. The remaining $33 million generated each year goes to CPS to support K-12 learning programs. The tax revenue provides tuition assistance for low-income children, improves quality ratings for preschool centers and recruits, retains, and offers wage parity for early childhood educators.


three- and four-year-old children live in families with income levels of less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level

families assisted with preschool tuition


Voter Confusion

Since 2017, there have been three CPS renewal levy campaigns. This caused confusion among voters and an assumption that all campaigns were for the same purpose, which was not the case.

Competition For Fundraising

The CPP renewal was on the ballot in a presidential election year, so fundraising was competitive. However, the renewal only cost one-third of the initial campaign ($400,000 vs $1.2 million).

Getting to Action

A 2016 RAND Corporation report found that more than four in 10 children in Cincinnati enter kindergarten unprepared. This is especially true for low-income children and children with no preschool experience.

Aug. 2016The School Board votes to include Issue 44 on the ballot.

United Way of Greater Cincinnati signs on as the agency to manage Cincinnati Preschool Promise (CPP).
Nov. 2016Issue 44 wins approval with 62 percent of the vote, authorizing the expansion of preschool through a partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools and the CPP. The program is funded for five years.
Sept. 2018CPP’s first annual report for 2017-2018 shows the program reached 1,341 students and increased the quality ratings of five preschool providers.
2019 - 2020 A local political action committee, Cincinnatians Active to Support Education, directs the renewal campaign, as CPS is a public entity and CPP is a nonprofit without lobbying status.
Nov. 2020Issue 17 wins approval with just over 69 percent of the vote.


  • Has helped nearly 7,000 families with preschool tuition assistance
  • Offers both public and community-based access to two years of high-quality preschool for three- and four-year-olds. Qualifying families may apply for tuition assistance for the CPP program or a CPS preschool of their choice
  • Eligibility has increased from families with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line—equal to $50,200 per year for a family of four—to families with incomes less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line
  • The network of high-quality tuition assistance providers grew 29 percent in 2019 when CPP provided quality improvement coaching services for 200 providers
  • Number of preschoolers served grew by 53 percent the same year
  • An independent evaluation found children in CPP outperformed peers on the 2019-2020 Ohio Department of Education Kindergarten Readiness Assessment by 10 percentage points.

Keys to Success

Build Robust Coalitions

Collaboration between CPP and CPS and support from community leaders, business leaders, providers, Democratic and Republican leaders and voters was crucial. CPP staff and board played a key role in bringing champions forward.

Personal Stories Matter

When engaging with voters, face-to-face conversations and personal stories (with supporting data) of how community members had benefited from the CPP program changed minds.

Well-Organized Canvassing

Canvassing targeted voters opposing the levy and those that lacked knowledge about the initiative. CPS led with the message that the renewal “won’t raise taxes” to address a concern relevant to the COVID-19 economic downturn.

Highlight Concrete Outcomes

CPP helped voters understand the value of their tax dollars. One example impact point: nearly 200 providers used CPP resources to improve their quality rating.