New Orleans voters will see only one item on Saturday’s ballot: a mileage proposal to fund early childhood education. We break down what you need to know before you head to the polls.
Dates, times and places to know
Election day is Saturday, April 30. Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
You can find your polling location on the Louisiana Secretary of State website here.
This is the language you will see on the ballot
Will the city of New Orleans be permitted to improve early childhood development and education in New Orleans by levying a special 5 mill tax on all taxable property in the parish of Orléans for a period of twenty years (January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2042), with all tax revenues dedicated exclusively to programs and capital investments that provide childcare and educational opportunities for the children of the parish of Orleans who have not yet entered kindergarten, and with an estimated collection in the first year of $21,274,959 if the aforementioned special tax is levied in full?
How would mileage work?
The $5 million property tax would earmark funds for programs for children who have not yet entered kindergarten.
According to a report by the Bureau of Governmental Research, an independent public policy research organization in New Orleans. The BGR decided in favor of the proposed mileage.
If the proposal passes, the city would begin collecting the tax in 2023 and it would last for 20 years.
Revenue for the first five years of the levy would be governed by the local non-profit Children’s Agenda and the Orleans Parish School Board through a council-approved agreement. Proceeds would go toward an existing city-funded program, City seatswhich provides low-income families with access to quality child care.
The City Seats program began in 2018, serving 50 children with $750,000 allocated by the city from its general fund. The city has since increased funding for the program to $3 million, supporting 200 children from households earning less than $43,920, twice the federal poverty line for a family of 3 in 2021, according to the BGR report.
Last year, the state matched the city’s $3 million, expanding the program to serve another 200 children.
If voters approve the mileage proposal, the city estimated it would bring in $21.3 million in gross revenue in its first year.
The majority of that funding would go toward expanding the City Seats program to serve 1,000 children by 2024, according to the city’s spending plan detailed in the BGR report. With an expected match from the state’s early childhood fund, the program could expand to serve 2,000 children.
The City Seats program currently serves 400 children: 52 infants, 89 one-year-olds, 112 two-year-olds and 147 three-year-olds, according to its website. More than 8,300 children in Orleans Parish are eligible for the program and are currently unserved, according to Agenda for Children and partner groups.
Revenues would also fund child and family support services through City Seats, the expansion of capacity at early learning centers, as well as outreach programs and enrollment coordination.
Defenders organized under the campaign banner of Yes for children NOLA argued that the city desperately needs more public funding for affordable child care. According to his campaign website, only a quarter of low-income children aged three and under have access to publicly funded preschool in New Orleans.
Hamilton Simons-Jones with the Yes for NOLA Kids campaign advocated for the funding source at a school board meeting in January.
“We know that children who have access to quality early care are less likely to need special education services, to be held back in school, to drop out of high school, to develop a chronic in adulthood and being engaged in the criminal justice system,” Simons-Jones said.
Who is for? Who is against?
Mayor LaToya Cantrell spoke in favor of the mileage proposal, as did several city council members, including council chairwoman Helena Moreno, Joe Giarrusso, Freddie King and Oliver Thomas. District Attorney Jason Williams also endorsed the proposal. US Congressman Troy Carter also supports him.
Four of the seven members of the Orléans Parish School Board have endorsed it: President Olin Parker, Vice President JC Romero, and members Katie Baudouin and Ethan Ashley. Full board has signed a contract with the city and Agenda for Children sending $1.5 million a year from the mileage to the New Orleans Public School District, dedicated to managing enrollment in early childhood education programs. The contract will take effect if the mile passes.
A long list of community groups have also backed the proposal, including United Way of Southeast Louisiana and the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. Business associations, including the Business Council of New Orleans & the River Region and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, also support it.
The proposal attracted little organized opposition.
It’s a change from the last time an early childhood mile was on the ballot in December 2020, when a ballot proposal pushed by Mayor Cantrell would have slashed the city’s public library budget. city to fund City Seats. The proposal was rejected after library supporters campaigned against it.