Early Childhood Education One Idea For New Children’s Tax

Mar 30, 2018
Originally published on March 29, 2018 5:49 pm

As Leon County Commissioners consider creating a new tax aimed at supporting local youth, the question of how that money would be spent is growing. A lot of organizations have ideas. Leaders in the Leon County school system say they’d like to see that money help ensure kids are ready to start school.

Leon County Schoolboard member Rosanne Wood says the program has proven successful in other communities.

“They’ve had great success in the six counties that have done it. They’ve brought down infant mortality. They have increased their pre-k enrollment,” Wood says.

Wood says she’d like to see that kind of progress when it comes to early childhood education in Leon County. She says when kids start school, if they’re already behind, they’ll never be able to catch up.

“If we don’t break this cycle, which breaks the cycle of poverty, of course education is the way we break the cycle of poverty and without better funded early childhood intervention, I don’t believe we have a chance and we need to have better resources there and we can’t do it alone in the school system. We just can’t. So this will be a way for the community to find a funding mechanism for that,” Wood says

And school superintended Rocky Hanna says that’s something he could get behind.

“In theory, yeah, who wouldn’t support dollars doing to those zero to five years to help enhance those programs to help kids get ready for kindergarten, if that’s part of the plan. But I don’t really know enough about it,” Hanna says

Hannah isn’t the only one who says he’d like to know more. The Tallahassee Chamber released a statement urging the commission to study the area’s needs before creating a new taxing authority. Sue Dick is the president of the chamber. She spoke during the recent county commission meeting.  Dick says in the past before creating a new tax, the commissioners and stakeholders have worked together to clearly identify needs and solutions and she says it makes sense to do that again before creating a Childrens Services Council, and tax.

“No one is arguing the overall need. The discussion is what is the path for the greatest level of success for a need that we have in our community to move forward,” Dick said.

The Childrens Services Council would be a new taxing authority that could levy about $8-million. Early learning is just one of many ideas that have been suggested for how to spend that money. Other proposals include plans to address issues spanning from homelessness, to mental healthcare to youth incarceration. County commissioners agreed a better understanding of how that money might be used is needed. During their meeting earlier this week they directed staff to collect information on the need in Leon County. They’ll discuss that at an upcoming meeting in May with plans to begin the creation of the new taxing authority in June. If commissioners agree to create the council, the question will go to the voters in a referendum as early as November.

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