Visionary cities, counties and even some states across the country recognize the value of investing in high-quality preschool to promote every child’s success, reduce poverty and improve the economic climate of their communities. If not us, then who?
All children deserve a chance to reach their full potential. Children who, by age 5, receive high-quality education are 40% less likely to need special education or to be held back a grade, and they are 70% more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not. High-quality preschool has been extensively studied and has shown gains in academic achievement, earnings and career success as well as reduced crime and dependence on welfare.
Rob Grunewald, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, has consistently found that not only is preschool a good thing for children in the short term, it also has sustaining “lower social costs, such as lower crime costs; and higher school achievement, educational attainment, and earnings. Average societal rates of return range from 7 percent to about 20 percent annually.” (Grunewald, 2016) The drop off in benefits is prevented, according to Grunewald, by ensuring children have access to high quality, full day preschool.
What exactly is a “High-Quality” preschool program and why is high-quality required for participation in Strong Start Tucson?
High-quality is recognized in a variety of ways, such as national accreditation, a Quality First rating of 3, 4 or 5 stars, and Head Start. The SST commission will establish the exact standards required for Strong Start Tucson participation. Research shows that preschool makes a long-term impact only when it is a high-quality setting; therefore Strong Start Tucson will be fiscally responsible and ensure that money is spent only where it makes a lasting positive difference.
There are approximately 14,000 3 and 4 year old children in Tucson, but only about 2,500 currently attend high-quality preschool. Strong Start Tucson will generate enough money each year to ensure that up to 8000 more children can attend.
All Tucson parents of 3 and 4 year old children will be eligible to enroll. The amount of tuition assistance will be a sliding scale, based on family size and income. Tuition assistance will be paid directly to participating high-quality preschools.
All local school districts have the capacity, ability, and desire to run extensive high quality pre-school programs, but need a consistent funding stream do so effectively. Strong Start Tucson will provide a new source of funding for public schools to offer high quality preschool. This is why many public school board members, superintendents and teachers support SST.
Only a small percentage of FTF dollars provide scholarships as there are other needs of young children that First Things First is required by law to fund. In Tucson, only 200 3 and 4 year-old children receive FTF scholarships to attend high-quality preschool.
Head Start is a wonderful federally funded program that provides free high-quality preschool for approximately 1200 Tucson children. Strong Start Tucson will provide scholarships for up to 8000 more of the 11,500 3 and 4 year old children who do not attend high-quality preschool today.
Yes. Parents will be able to send their children to any high-quality preschool. SST recognizes the impact high-quality preschool makes in the lives of children and will ensure that quality standards are met by each program that participates.
An independent Strong Start Tucson Commission, appointed by the Mayor and Council, will have oversight and ensure that the program is well run and funds are used appropriately. An independent non-profit organization will be selected by competitive bid to enroll children and to oversee the disbursement of scholarship funds to high quality preschools.
No. While the city receives the tax dollars collected, the law is written to ensure that these funds can only be used to provide tuition assistance/financial aid for Tucson’s kids to attend high quality preschool.
In Tucson, a sales tax is the only option legally available to fund SST.
Let’s let Tucson families decide for themselves which is more important to them: scholarships for their kids or paying one penny more for a $2 ice cream cone. The .5 cent sales tax will cost the average person $36 per year. Poorer families will pay less and richer ones will pay more. While sales taxes are indeed regressive, well-off families make more (and more expensive) taxable purchases, and will therefore pay for a much greater share of the fund. (Food, medicine and rent are not taxed.) Struggling families with young children will be eligible for thousands of dollars in scholarships, many times more than their sales-tax burden.
Children’s advocacy groups have worked for 8 years to restore state-wide child care assistance for working families, which was virtually eliminated in 2009. Thousands of families are on the “wait forever” list. Tucson’s children can wait no longer for state legislators to change their minds. SST will give scholarships to up to 8000 Tucson 3 and 4 year olds to attend high quality preschool. When they go low, we go local.
The tax to fund roads and public safety approved by voters in May 2017 will sunset in 5 years. Tucson’s quality of life has many facets: safe streets and a bright future for our all our children complement each other. Tucson’s kids have waited too long to for us to give them fair and equal access to opportunity.