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Will San Antonio Voters Tax Themselves for All-Day Pre-K?

Early-childhood education may not be a key issue in the race for the White House, but for San Antonio voters, it will be front and center on the November ballot.

San Antonio Mayor Juli├ín Castro—who got national media exposure for his keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., last month—is campaigning hard for a local sales tax increase that he says will provide full-day prekindergarten to more than 22,000 low-income 4-year-olds in his city over the next eight years.

 Campaign 2012

In 2011, Texas lawmakers slashed spending on state grants that school districts used to pay for full-day prekindergarten programs. The state still pays for half-day pre-K for children who are English-learners or who are from poor, homeless, foster, or military families, but districts have had to scramble to find other ways to cover the costs of running full-day programs. Some have charged tuition, for example.

But San Antonio, with the backing of the mayor, the city council, and prominent business leaders, would be the first community in Texas to raise local taxes in order to expand full-day prekindergarten. Called Pre-K 4 SA, the initiative would raise the local sales tax by one-eighth of a cent, which would generate roughly $30 million annually for all-day prekindergarten and would serve 4-year-olds in the city who are not currently attending a full-day program.

Despite what appears to be very broad support of the initiative, there are opponents to the measure, including San Antonio resident Jeff Judson, a senior fellow at the conservative Heartland Institute, who has written a brief outlining reasons that voters should reject the mayor's plan.

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