New Orleans City Council took another step to give hundreds of other low-income residents access to early childhood education, passing a measure on Thursday that will impose a new property tax on the bulletin vote to expand the publicly funded program.
The council unanimously approved a $ 5 million property tax measure for the April 30 poll. If approved by voters, it would generate about $ 21 million annually, enough to provide an additional 1,000 spaces for preschoolers and cover the costs associated with expanding the city’s existing supplier network.
The measure would put early childhood education on par with New Orleans’ public library system in terms of property tax support, and add New Orleans to a small but growing list of cities focused on funding education. education of toddlers and young children. Five factories translate to an annual cost of about $ 62 for a $ 200,000 home with a homestead exemption.
Advocates and council members hailed the ballot measure as a potentially transformational way to support working-class parents while putting underprivileged children on the path to success. They also pointed out that the new tax would equal less than other mileage reductions and expirations since 2019, which combine for around 7.15 miles.
“Early childhood education is not just about education. It is a matter of public safety. It is a health problem. It’s an economic development issue, it’s a housing issue, it’s all that makes up our entire community, ”said Jay Banks, Council member.
The measure is also supported by Mayor LaToya Cantrell, whose administration has already committed increasing levels of general funds for early childhood education.
In 2021, the administration provided $ 3 million to Agenda For Children, a non-profit organization that administers the “City Seats” program for children under the age of four from families with incomes below the threshold. poverty. With this funding from the city, City Seats placed 200 children in approximately 20 daycares scattered throughout the city.
Ownership of the city is just one of the many ways that early childhood education programs receive funding in New Orleans. Agenda for Children said Head Start, state matching funds and private philanthropy were among the other sources that contributed more than $ 65 million last year.
But that’s only enough to pay for the school fees of around 38% of the city’s preschoolers living in poverty, and the gap is widening among the younger age groups, according to the group of preschoolers. defense. Only a quarter of those under four have access to a preschool place.
The proposed vote helps direct funding toward all preschoolers, but the City Seats program – the most likely beneficiary of any future property taxes – limits registration to those under the age of four.
An annual injection of $ 21 million in property taxes would only partially close the funding gaps, advocates say, even with additional matching funds from the state.
Still, council member Joseph Giarrusso said the need for local funding is all the more urgent as new federal initiatives related to President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better package are blocked in Congress.
“We’re at a point where we know the federal government might not fully fund it at this point. So we have a chance to be a leader in this area, ”said Giarrusso.
Lawyers pointed out that the polls showed strong public support, and most of the public comment cards read aloud at the meeting – which was conducted by video amid a COVID-19 outbreak in the city - were favorable. But at least two speakers opposed the measure.
Among them was Mallory Turner, who said the tax would unfairly discriminate against people above the poverty line who also struggle to find affordable child care.
“The majority of voters who foot the bill for this resolution through property taxes will be from the middle and upper classes,” Turner said.
The proposal is not yet finalized. State Bond Commission approval is required before it appears on the ballot. A vote from the Bond Commission is expected on February 17.