Pre-K in Kansas City
Claims vs. Facts
Opponents of pre-K in Kansas City are making a lot of claims about the Pre-K for KC plan that are either intentionally misleading, or downright false. Here’s what you need to know:
Fourteen school districts in Kansas City would be impacted by the proposed pre-K sales tax. They all provide pre-kindergarten programs currently and share a commitment to young children.
While all 14 school districts provide pre-K programs, they do not have the capacity to provide affordable, high-quality pre-K for all 4-year-olds in Kansas City. If they did, then Kansas City would not have high-quality pre-K deserts in nearly 40 percent of its zip codes.
In addition, aside from their Head Start seats (school districts contract with MARC for Head Start seats), some school districts like North Kansas City only provide half-day pre-K, mostly for children they are federally mandated to serve.
Collectively, [school districts] desire an expansion of pre-K programming but see a better way to truly serve all students.
Unfortunately, none of the Pre-K for KC opponents have presented a proposal to provide affordable, high-quality pre-K instruction for ALL 4-year-olds in Kansas City. Previous proposals for a levy increase have failed at the state level.
The Mayor’s pre-K sales tax proposal promises to provide universal pre-K for all Kansas City
4-year-olds through a 3/8 cent sales tax in Kansas City.
Actually, this is true!
A very small amount of the millions generated by the 3/8 cent sales tax will actually benefit students.
All of the revenue generated from the tax will benefit Kansas City students.
The plan proposes investing the revenue in three main, interrelated categories: 1) Tuition Discounts, 2) Quality Improvements, and 3) Facilities Improvements.
Tuition discounts make it easier for families most in need to afford pre-K for their child. Quality improvements ensure that pre-K programs across Kansas City are high-quality so that students enter the K-12 system ready to learn. Facilities improvements will help increase capacity to make sure there are enough high-quality seats.
All three of these investment categories are necessary to increase access to high-quality pre-K for all Kansas City four-year olds. Simply offering tuition discounts won’t fix the problem if there aren’t enough quality seats available.
A detailed explanation of the budget expenditures can be found in the Pre-K for KC Plan on Page 30. http://www.progresskc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Pre-K-for-KC_ImplementationPlan.pdf
Only 25 percent of the approximately $30 million in sales tax revenue would be spent for direct services to children during each of the first three years of implementation.
Only $7 million would actually go to pre-K programs, with the rest of the money tied up in administrative costs, duplication of services and further training.
Only 700 students of approximately 6,750 eligible children would benefit.
Only 10% of eligible children would be served.
Only $7 million would actually go to pre-K programs, with the rest of the money tied up in administrative costs, duplication of services, and further training.
None of these claims are true.
In the initial years, the Pre-K for KC plan will build capacity in the pre-K environment because there are currently not enough seats for all the children who need them. In later years, when capacity has increased, pre-K resources will shift more to tuition discounts to help the increased number of families who are participating in pre-K.
What’s more this is not a duplication of services, it’s an expansion of services. School districts do not currently have enough high-quality pre-K seats to serve all of the four-year olds in Kansas City.
Also, since there is not currently a statewide Quality Rating and Improvement System, the Pre-K for KC plan creates one by adopting and strengthening the regional QRIS initiative piloted through the Mid America Regional Council (MARC). The QRIS ensures that all pre-K programs (community-based and school-based) supported by this tax will be held to the same standards.
Moreover, the pre-K program will utilize economies of scale for pre-K related purchasing, training, etc. that are currently being shouldered by school districts and community providers individually.
The mayor’s plan is a regressive sales tax that would disproportionately impact the least able to pay.
Families that need the most help paying for high-quality pre-K are the ones that benefit the most.
For example, a family of three that earns $35,000 a year will pay $58.50 more per year under a 3/8-cent sales tax increase. However, they will receive a tuition benefit of $12,000 to send their child to a high-quality pre-K program.
Also worth noting, many of the groups who oppose Pre-K for KC were in favor of the Central City Sales Tax, funded by a 1/8 cent sales tax. The better question is: why were those groups ok with what they call a regressive tax then, but not now when we’re trying to help families and four-year olds?
The mayor’s plan would provide funding for private and parochial schools (vouchers). This is in direct conflict with Missouri Constitution Article IX, which specifically restricts public funding for any “institution of learning controlled by any religious creed, church or sectarian denomination”.
The plan is not a voucher. Vouchers take money already in the public school system and redirect it out of the public school system. This plan generates revenue that will increase funding for pre-K in both public schools and in community-based programs.
What’s more, the Pre-K for KC plan is very specific that resources cannot be used for any religious instruction. Pre-K instruction that focuses on things like counting, colors, letters, and social interaction and is not a form of religious instruction is not restricted by the constitution.
Monies ultimately will be overseen by a Mayor-appointed commission and the KC City Council, essentially preventing locally-elected boards of education from serving in their governance role.
School boards will have five members on the advisory board that oversees the implementation of the pre-K plan.
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