This month we have a significant opportunity to invest in early childhood education and the future of New Orleans. On the April 30th ballot, Orleans Parish residents will vote on a proposal to fund approximately 1,500 preschool seats per year for children ages 0 to 3.
It is no secret that early childhood education is historically underfunded, and New Orleans is no exception. According to data from Agenda for Children, over 8,000 children in New Orleans currently lack affordable access to childcare. However, New Orleans has made notable strides in recent years to improve options for families through City Seats. This month’s ballot proposal would allow for the well-established and highly regarded City Seats to expand its reach to additional kids and families. By doing so, New Orleans would be paving the way as a national model for local childcare funding solutions.
What’s on the ballot?
The following proposition language is on the upcoming ballot:
“Shall the City of New Orleans be authorized to enhance early childhood development and education in New Orleans through the levy of a special tax of 5 mills on all taxable property within Orleans Parish for a period of twenty years (January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2042), with all tax proceeds dedicated exclusively to programs and capital investments that provide childcare and educational opportunities for Orleans Parish children who have not yet entered kindergarten, and with an estimated collection during the initial year of $21,274,959 if the foregoing special tax is levied in full?”
If you vote yes, you are voting in favor of the millage and increased funding for early childhood education in New Orleans.
Who will benefit?
In the short-term, approximately 1,500 more children per year will be able to access affordable, quality childcare through the city-run program City Seats. City Seats provides funding to existing early childhood centers on a per pupil basis, and participating centers then offer spots to qualifying children at no cost to families. Other children enrolled at these centers will also benefit from the proposal, for example because their teachers will have ongoing opportunities for training and support.
In the long-run, every resident of Orleans Parish will benefit. Early childhood funding is proven to have a high return on investment. Studies show long-term benefits of investing in early childhood in many areas, including education, health, employment, and public safety.
Is my child eligible for one of these seats?
If you live in Orleans Parish and have a child ages 0 to 3, they may be eligible for a City Seat. The program provides seats to families with an income at 0-200% of the poverty level. For a family of 4, a child would likely qualify if their family’s income is around $55,000 per year or below.
You can see if your child qualifies for this program, in addition to other publicly funded childcare options, through the New Orleans Public School Enrollment Portal.
What is the financial ask?
The proposal would be funded through a millage rate of 5 mills, paid through property taxes. If you own a home in New Orleans valued around $200,000, you can expect to pay about $5 per month for this initiative. If you find taxes confusing or interesting, you can read more about millages and see 2022 millage rates at the Assessor’s Office website.
If the millage is approved, the state of Louisiana will also provide matching funds for this initiative.
Let’s Get to It
First thing’s first, it’s time to get out and vote. Early voting starts April 16th and the general election is April 30th. You can find out more about your voting location and ballot here or by downloading the Geaux Vote mobile app.