Voters in two Ohio cities approve tax increases for expanded preschool

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by Félix Pérez

Voters in the Ohio cities of Cincinnati and Dayton approved tax increases that will expand preschool programs.

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The Cincinnati tax measure, Issue 44, passed Nov. 8 with 62 percent of the votes cast, the widest margin of victory on a school levy increase in that city since 1952. Issue 9, in Dayton, won 56 percent of the vote on the same day. Both cities will use the money to help subsidize preschool options based on family income.

Issue 44 will generate $48 million a year for five years. Fifteen million will go to expand quality, affordable preschool within Cincinnati public schools and through community-based providers. The remainder will go to the city’s public schools to strengthen neighborhood schools, expand student access to technology, and prepare students for college and careers, among other things.

Said Superintendent Mary Ronan.

It is so wonderful to live in a community that cares so deeply about its children getting the education they need to be successful in life. Never before has such a broad-based coalition come together in Cincinnati in support of a district ballot issue. Our children — and Cincinnati’s future — are the winners.

The tax measure in Dayton is expected to raise about $11 million annually for eight years, of which $4.3 million would go toward making preschool available for the roughly 1,900 4-year-olds in the city. Most of the money would go toward tuition assistance for families and “quality assistance” to help existing preschool and child care centers upgrade their programs. Money could also be used to expand existing high-quality public preschools.

Said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley:

To do a new program in the city of Dayton … with high-quality pre-K says a lot about the belief in our community that we are moving forward and that we believe in our future by investing in ourselves.

Over the years, various research studies have shown that evidence-based preschool carries long-term and long-lasting economic benefits to students and society. For instance, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, in reviewing existing research, concluded that “in the future any proposed economic development list should have early childhood development at the top. The return on investment from early childhood development is extraordinary, resulting in better working public schools, more educated workers and less crime.”

In another comprehensive study, perhaps the best known of its kind, researchers gave high marks to the Abecedarian Project, one of the world’s oldest and most oft-cited early childhood education programs. Among the benefits found:

  • Children in high-quality programs are projected to make roughly $143,000 more over their lifetimes than those who didn’t take part.
  • Children had higher cognitive test scores from the toddler years to age 21.
  • Academic achievement in both reading and math was higher from the primary grades through young adulthood.
  • Children completed more years of education and were more likely to attend a four-year college.
  • Mothers of children who were enrolled earned about $133,000 more over their lifetimes.
  • School districts can expect to save more than $11,000 per child because participants are less likely to require special or remedial education.
  • Mothers whose children participated in the program achieved higher educational and employment status than mothers whose children were not in the program. These results were especially pronounced for teen mothers.

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