KC mayor continues push for proposal to increase sales tax to fund pre-K education

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Mayor Sly James spent his Tuesday night pounding the pavement again. James is hoping to get supporters to says "yes" to his controversial pre-K education proposal.

James held the first of a series of town hall meetings on the issue. About two dozen attended Tuesday's meeting, which was held at the Kansas City of Chamber of Commerce's board room at Union Station.

"I know that we have the ability to do this because we've done some pretty difficult stuff in this city," James said.

Last year James first proposed a tax increase to send all 4- and 5-year-old boys and girls to pre-K. His proposal includes a 3/8-cent citywide sales tax to fund pre-K programs.  James anticipates the tax hike will generate $30-million per year.

"We're not catching them until they reach 4 (years old) when 85, 90 percent of their brain is developed," James said. "We have to change, and this is the time to do it. We can't continue to educate our children without going back to the basics and getting them at the earliest opportunity."

The mayor said currently only 35 percent of Kansas City's 4-year-olds are enrolled in a "high quality pre-K program."

"This funding will go towards creating affordable high quality seats throughout Kansas City, and also it will provide tuition discounts for families based on financial need," he said. "It is time now for us to move our children forward by making sure we are providing them with every opportunity to receive the best start in their life."

However, several school districts, including Kansas City Public Schools, do not support the mayor's pre-K plan as it currently stands.

Some worry the proposal would become a voucher system. Others are concerned the districts would lose control of the money.

But high school teacher Pranav Nanda liked what he heard Tuesday night.

"I 100 percent think that this plan can really help kind of push students forward. There are thousands of students who are not getting the seats and not getting the quality education they need," Nanda said.

Voters will have their say when they vote on the proposal on April 2.

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