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Now what? City leaders react after Kansas City voters reject pre-K sales tax

Posted at 6:13 PM, Apr 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 19:18:38-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, residents handily voted down a sales-tax increase Tuesday, which would have funded high-quality pre-kindergarten education programs for every 4-year-old in the city.

The final margin — 66% against it and 34% for it — was a landslide defeat for outgoing Mayor Sly James and its advocates, but it was a resounding win for area school districts, who aligned tin opposition.

The measure called for a 3/8-cent sales tax for 10 years, which was expected to generate $30 million a year.

"Certainly, we're disappointed today," Turn the Page KC Executive Director Mike English said.

But English stressed that the measure's defeat wasn't a complete loss.

"We'll keep fighting, find another way, because it's something we can not give up on because those 4-year-old kids need it," English said.

He believes one major positive came out of this campaign.

"Really, (it) raised the awareness city-wide about how important early childhood education is," English said.

For those who opposed James' pre-K plan, last night was cause for celebration.

"The outcome is what we wanted," Executive Director for the Cooperative School Districts of Greater Kansas City Gayden Carruth said.

All 14 school districts that serve part of KCMO opposed the plan — citing concerns over revenue, constitutionality, and how it would be governed.

According to Carruth, getting kids into pre-K is an issue they've been looking at for years.

"They have been providing early childhood education, they will continue to provide early childhood education, they plan to add a number as many as 700 seats for the next school year," Carruth said of local district's commitment to pre-K education.

Carruth points out that with 14 school districts a one-size-fits-all model doesn't work, so any future plans should be tailored to individual districts.

"Just because a plan is good in one school district doesn't make it workable in another school district," she said. "You have to flex it some."

No one knows what the future holds, but the debate about how to improve the city's pre-K education and ensure high-quality programs are available for every child is far from over.

"I think that it's unfortunate that we have to lose before we win, but if that's what it takes then that's what it takes," English said.