Further, Multnomah County’s new universal preschool program will be funded by a county income tax levied on approximately eight percent of the county’s highest income households, addressing skyrocketing economic inequality and the forty-year concentration of income at the very top.
The Multnomah County ballot measure campaign was supported by an undeniable coalition of teachers, unions, organizations representing communities of color, civic and feminist groups, small business owners and environmental advocates– not to mention galvanized parents, child care workers, preschool providers, public health care workers, doctors, economists, school board members and elected officials.
Two separate campaigns worked independently for years to prepare a ballot measure, emerging to find themselves aimed at the same election. The more ambitious was led by the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America while the other was headed by a philanthropy, called Social Venture Partners, working with an elected County Commissioner. The two campaigns were able to merge on their strongest combined program, after the bolder plan gathered thirty-two thousand signatures, more than enough to qualify for the ballot.
Key to our success, I believe, was creating a program that works for children, parents and workers. Too often in the U.S., fear of raising taxes has led to small, part-time and ill-paid programs serving only the least advantaged, and supported by a limited base of advocates for children from lower-income households. High quality, universal programs are not only more successful at improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged children, but enjoy the popularity necessary to sustaining funding into the future while allowing parents to work more hours or gain additional schooling.
This post originally appeared on American University’s project on Care Work and the Economy blog.