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Mayor Sly James makes final push for pre-K proposal before Election Day

Sly on Pre-K.jpg
Posted at 8:12 PM, Apr 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-01 23:21:14-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Mayor Sly James spent the final weeks before the April election campaigning for his pre-K proposal.

The plan would enact a 3/8-cent sales tax for the next 10 years to fund free pre-K programs, particularly in underserved areas, for Kansas City 4-year-olds. The tax will generate an estimated $30 million per year.

James said only about 35 percent of children are currently enrolled in a high-quality pre-K program, a fact he hopes to change in an effort to help Kansas City grow.

However, the proposal faces strong opposition for a few reasons. Many people — including the mayor himself — acknowledge that a sales tax is regressive and hurts poor families most.

Local superintendents have come out against the program as well, citing issues with how it's funded and how the board overseeing the money will be comprised. The mayor will appoint three people to the board, while Jackson County and local schools will each appoint one member to make up a five-member board.

"They don't get the money and they don't get to control it, but at the end of the day, it ain't about them," James said, referring to the superintendents. "It's about the kids."

Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell said the choice should be up to the voters.

"I think you let the community say, 'this is what we want to do with a levy,'" Bedell said. "We want this money to be used for early childhood and we expect 'x' amount to be used for it and let the community dictate that."

Voters will decide on the issue in Tuesday's election.