A new property tax that is expected to raise $21 million a year for early childhood education in New Orleans was poised to pass by a wide margin in Saturday’s election. With only a few constituencies uncounted as of 10:15 p.m., 61% of voters voted in favor of the tax.
The tax proposal was New Orleans’ only ballot item in Saturday’s election, resulting in low voter turnout in the city: 24,611 of New Orleans’ 267,266 registered voters, with 347 of 351 precincts — or about 99% of the city – counted.
Revenue generated from the tax will fund an additional 1,000 early childhood education spaces for New Orleans students. A state matching grant could double that amount, expanding the program to 2,000 places. Either way, it will greatly expand the city’s current program which is funded at $3 million per year, creating 200 seats.
The New Orleans city government began directly funding early childhood education in 2018 with a $750,000 pilot program. The city doubled that investment to $1.5 million in 2019, and doubled it again in 2020 to $3 million. These funds are used to pay tuition fees for private early education programs for children who cannot afford it.
The measure was championed by Mayor LaToya Cantrell. In the fall, New Orleans City Councilwoman Helena Moreno supported him, introducing the ballot measure approved by voters on Saturday.
“For years, this Council has fought for funding for early childhood education because we know this essential element is out of reach for too many of our city’s children,” said Moreno. in a published statement. “Studies conclusively show that early childhood education sets children on the path to greater academic and social success. We want to remove financial barriers to early childhood education, and this mileage is an important step in that direction.
The property tax, also known as the mileage, could partially resolve a dispute between the city and the Orleans Parish School Board over how to use grant money provided by Harrah’s Casino as part of of its operating agreement in the city. The city expressed a desire to use this money, which had traditionally gone directly to OPSB, to fund early childhood education.
This funding was questioned for the district last year and this spring, but in both cases the board ultimately allocated the money to the district. Although council members warned district officials, they shouldn’t count on it.
With the passage of the mile, the district of 45,000 students will undertake additional work.
Earlier this month, the New Orleans City Council approved a Cooperative Effort Agreement that will send $1.5 million from the new property tax collection each year to NOLA public schools to manage enrollment. centralized for new seats. It will also fund additional support services for families entering the system, district officials said.
The agreement also includes a one-time payment of $500,000 to the school district for early childhood seat awareness and marketing.
Another $1 million each year will go towards the administrative costs of Agenda for Children, a nonprofit organization authorized by the state to coordinate early childhood education in the city.
“These funds cover staffing and oversight of municipal headquarters [publicly funded early childhood education] program, independent evaluation and quality assurance,” Yes for NOLA Kids campaign spokesperson Caitlin Berni wrote in an email earlier this year.
Payments to the school district would be made on a per-student basis: $1,000 per student to run an enrollment program, similar to the online lottery system (formerly known as OneApp) it runs for schools from kindergarten to grade 12, and $500 per student for staff. If 1,000 students apply and receive places in early childhood education centers, the total comes to $1.5 million, or about 7% of projected tax revenue.
The district and Agenda are required to submit quarterly reports to the council, in addition to the city.