Q: What’s the scope of this problem? Why do we need expanded pre-K in KC?
A: Only about 35% of four year-olds in Kansas City are enrolled in pre-K. There are two primary reasons for that: affordability and access.
Because such a small number of kids are enrolled in pre-K, too few students are entering kindergarten ready to learn on day one. That means we’re shortchanging our K-12s system from the moment our students enter it.
The ripple effects of this are predictable. Too many kids aren’t able to read at the proper level by the third grade. Too many kids make bad choices and end up in the juvenile justice system. Too many kids don’t finish high school. And we’re not doing a good job of providing Kansas City businesses with a skilled, educated workforce.
Q: What are the benefits of pre-K?
A: When we invest in high quality pre-K, we enjoy both immediate improvements in SCHOOL READINESS and long-term FUTURE BENEFITS.
Equally important, Kansas City’s schools and students will see an immediate benefit in terms of academic performance and outcomes.
• [BRAIN DEVELOPMENT] Kindergarten starts for most children after they turn 5 years old, yet 90% of a child’s brain development occurs before age 5. We need high-quality early learning programs for all of KC’s four-year olds, so that we are stimulating their development at a critical time.
• [K-12 IMPROVEMENT] At a time when too many children enter the public schools in Kansas City behind both academically and emotionally, high-quality early learning programs are a proven way to ensure that students start school ready to learn. This improves the entire school system with a stronger learning environment, less need for remedial teaching and lower dropout rates.
• [MORE ACCESS] Revenue generated by this proposal will fund access to high-quality early learning education for at least 80% of four-year olds in Kansas City, which means thousands of more children will be ready for school every year.
The long-term benefits of investing in high-quality pre-K are well established and pay dividends to the entire city, not just students and their families.
• [CRIME REDUCTION] Studies show that kids with high-quality early learning experience are less likely to be involved in juvenile crime. Early learning programs are also cheaper than the millions of dollars taxpayers spend on prisons that are filling up with high school dropouts – many who needed the help that early learning programs can provide.
• [WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT] Kansas City needs more students prepared to enter the 21st century workforce. Study after study proves that quality early learning programs put all kids on a path to success and a better chance at a good-paying job.
• [RETURN ON INVESTMENT] This proposal will save taxpayers millions of dollars for decades to come. Studies show that for every dollar a community invests in high-quality early learning programs, it saves at least $7 in future education, criminal justice and welfare costs, as well as increased tax collections.
Q: A sales tax is a regressive tax which means it hits poor people the hardest. Are you sure this is the best way to do this?
A: We’ve spent months looking at a number of options and this plan for pre-K is the most effective, most viable plan available to us. It will dramatically increase access and affordability to high-quality pre-K and will provide significant benefits for low-income families.
A sales tax also has the added benefit of generating revenue from people who don’t live in Kansas City. Every time someone comes to Kansas City from out of town and makes a purchase, the sales tax they pay will help fund pre-K in Kansas City
Q: Kansas City is quickly becoming a very heavily taxed city. How much can we take?
A: Right now we are facing the consequences of ignoring a lot of challenges for far too long. And we’re doing it at a time when we’re getting little to no help from the state and federal government.
The fact is, we looked at a lot of different options, and they all presented challenges. The sales tax was the best of the bunch.
The sales tax is the only vehicle that helps families in every corner throughout the city, doesn’t require legislative action from the state, and doesn’t set us up for litigation.
We would love to get help from the state or federal government, but we could lose a generation of kids waiting on someone else to come to our rescue. We’re going to solve this problem ourselves. That’s what we do.
Q: Who is eligible for this? Is there an income level cut off?
A: For a child to be eligible, he or she must be age four or five and must live within the city limits of Kansas City, Missouri. Children are only eligible to participate for one year, the year before they enter kindergarten.
Income eligibility is capped at 400% of the federal poverty level, which means, for example, that a family of four making less than $100,250 per year is eligible for some tuition support. The tuition discount is on a sliding scale and is based on household size, parent/guardian income, and the quality of the pre-K program chosen. For example, a family of four with an annual income of $75,000 would receive a 50% discount on pre-K tuition at a provider operating at the highest quality. A family of four with an annual income of $50,000 would receive 100% discount on pre-K tuition at a provider operating at the highest quality.
Q: What kinds of pre-K centers are eligible to receive funds from the city?
A: Any pre-K or early childhood center currently serving four and five year-old children in pre-K are eligible as long as it is within the boundaries of a school district that serves Kansas City students.
The quality of the program will be measured by an independent group of diverse experts using national best practice indicators such as teacher/student interactions, the learning environment, curriculum, and teacher and staff qualifications. The results will be public and every program will be able to access funding to improve quality.
Q: For how will this new sales tax be in place?
A: The ⅜ cent sales tax has a 10-year sunset provision.
Q: I’ve heard people say this is basically a voucher program. Is it?
A: No, this is not a voucher program.
Traditional public school vouchers remove money from public schools and redirect it to private schools. The Pre-K for KC program does not decrease state school funding. It adds money to public and private pre-K providers, which will allow them to expand access and improve quality.
Q: How do we ensure that kids in every part of the city are getting their fair share?
A: The shortfall of children enrolled in high-quality pre-K is not limited to one part of the city or another. It’s a citywide issue.
And even in places where children are enrolled in pre-K, the revenue generated by this program will help expand access, improve quality, and reduce the tuition burden for parents.
In addition, the benefits pre-K provides to the city in the form of an improved K-12 system, reduced juvenile crime, increased high school graduation rates, and a better trained workforce, just to name a few, will be felt citywide.