A measure to bring tuition-free preschool to all three- and four-year-olds in Multnomah County is on the November ballot as Measure 26-214. This measure would prioritize kids from marginalized communities and give preschool teachers a living wage.
The program would be funded by a tiered tax on high-income earners that is estimated to create seven thousand new preschool slots by 2026. If the measure is passed, individuals making over 125 thousand dollars and households making over 200 thousand dollars will be taxed between 1.5 and 3 percent. This tax will increase by point eight percent in 2026 to expand the program’s capacity.
The measure is the result of a merger of two parallel campaigns: the Preschool for all Campaign, led by Commissioner Jessica Veda Pederson, and the Universal Preschool Now Campaign, a citizen-led initiative that had over 30,000 petition signatures. The two coalitions merged to give voters one all-encompassing measure on the ballot.
The measure is supported by organizations like Portland Jobs for Justice, Portland Association for Teachers, the Latino Network and the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, as well as preschool providers and parent representatives. There is no organized opposition to the measure.
KBOO's Hanna Merzbach explores how the investment in preschool is what proponents call, an equitable investment in Oregon's future.