This November, voters around the country chose to dedicate millions of dollars to children’s services. Learn about the three communities and one state that created new children’s funds (or renewed an existing fund) below. (For additional analysis about what these results mean for future ballot measure campaigns, check out our companion blog “Top Takeaways from the 2022 Election.”)

Whatcom County, WA

Ballot Title: Prop 5

Campaign: YES for Whatcom Kids!

Election Result: Passed (50% – 49%)

What It Will Fund: High-quality, affordable child care and expanded mental and behavioral health services and housing programs for vulnerable children

Projected Amount Generated Annually: $10 million

By a razor-thin margin, voters in Whatcom County decided to fund high-quality child care by slightly increasing property taxes for the next 10 years. In an election with more than 108,000 votes cast, the race was decided by a mere 20 votes.

One factor that contributed to the narrowness of the campaign’s victory was that advocates chose to put a countywide question on the ballot instead of only a citywide measure. This meant the initiative would generate more revenue and impact more children, not just those in the city of Bellingham. However it made it more challenging to pass, since many rural areas around the city were less willing to pass a tax, according to Cascadia Daily News. The razor-thin margin of victory shows the importance of the campaign’s voter outreach operation that included knocking on thousands of doors, making calls and texting potential voters, yard signs, direct mail, and digital and radio advertisements.

The fund will raise about $10 million a year and help lower costs for high-quality child care and increase the wages of child care workers. The fund will also help support new families and expand mental health services for pregnant parents and new parents. Prop 5 will slightly raise property taxes by $.19 per $1,000 of assessed value (or about $7.92 per household). The Whatcom County Healthy Children’s Fund will be the first children’s fund in the state of Washington outside of the Seattle area.

New Mexico

Ballot Title: Constitutional Amendment 1, Land Grant Permanent Fund Distribution for Early Childhood Education Amendment

Campaign: Vote Yes for Kids!

Election Result: Passed (70% – 30%)

What It Will Fund: Early childhood education and public education

Projected Amount Generated Annually: $150 million (for early childhood education) and $100 million (for public K-12 education)

Voters in New Mexico overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment that will significantly invest in early childhood education and public education. The amendment increases the percentage of revenue taken out of the Land Grant Permanent Fund every year from 5% to 6.25% and will dedicate approximately $150 million for early childhood education and $100 million for K-12 education. The fund accrues royalties from oil and gas companies operating on public land and from gains in the stock market and currently is valued around $26 billion. Ballot measures typically lose support over time as they’re attacked by the opposition; however, in New Mexico Amendment 1 actually gained support and outperformed its polling, securing 70% of the vote thanks to a strong public education campaign and a lack of organized, well-funded opposition. New Mexico voters sent a strong message to policymakers that investing and prioritizing children’s issues is broadly popular across the electorate.

Other states should take note of New Mexico’s success. More than 20 states have permanent land trust funds that are dedicated to education. Similar to New Mexico, Nebraska passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 to change the definition of “common school” to include early childhood education. This allowed $40 million to be allocated every year from the state’s land trust to the early childhood education endowment fund. By looking into the unique assets of a state, you might be able to find untapped revenue that can be dedicated to children and youth.

Jackson County, MO

Ballot Title: Question One

Campaign: Jackson County 4 Kids

Election Result: Passed (75% – 25%)

What It Will Fund: Mental health services for children and youth

Projected Amount Generated Annually: $28 million

With 75% of the vote, Jackson County voters convincingly renewed and doubled their children’s fund that provides mental health support for children and youth. The fund was originally established in 2016 as a ⅛ cent sales tax that has since supported more than 64,000 children through mental health services, in-home prevention services, and school-based crisis prevention. Despite the fund’s far-reaching impact, the pandemic exacerbated the mental health needs among children and youth, and the Children’s Services Fund was unable to support 40% of its funding requests. Robust public education efforts that relied heavily on digital advertisements helped the campaign recover from weak early polling.

According to Todd Patterson of Public Progress, young women were especially motivated and engaged in the election in Missouri, in large part due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion, which boosted support for the measure. In November, voters overwhelmingly decided to renew the Children’s Services Funds and double the levy to a ¼ cent sales tax to meet the urgent needs in Jackson County.

Sacramento, CA

Ballot Title: Measure L

Campaign: Yes on Measure L Sac Kids First

Election Result: Passed 62% – 37%

What It Will Fund: Mental health counseling, youth job training, substance abuse prevention programs, violence intervention, summer and after-school programs, early childhood education, and family support services

Projected Amount Generated Annually: $10 million

Voters in Sacramento decisively chose to create a children’s fund that will provide children and youth in the city with an array of programs and services including mental health support, after-school programs, youth job training, and substance abuse prevention programs. The city will create the fund by setting aside a portion of its budget, equivalent to 40% of the revenue brought in by the city’s cannabis business tax, which will raise an estimated $10 million a year. The campaign emphasized how the youth fund would improve public health and safety and address concerns about youth violence that have recently dominated conversation in Sacramento. The effort was led by Sac Kids First, a coalition of youth-focused community organizations including nonprofits, education, law enforcement officials, and business leaders. After many years of persistence and unsuccessful efforts in 2016 and 2020, children and youth advocates in Sacramento finally succeeded in creating a children’s fund.

Monterey County, CA

Ballot Title: Safe, Affordable, Quality Child Care in Monterey County Act

Campaign: Yes on Q

Election Result: Lost (41% – 59%)

What It Would Have Funded: Early childhood care and education

Projected Amount Generated Annually: $5.5 million

In Monterey, CA, Measure Q would have increased resources for early childhood but unfortunately it did not pass. The fund would have helped improve the quality of child care and early learning programs, helped prevent child abuse, provide behavioral and mental health services, and supported children who are at-risk of experiencing homelessness. The Yes for Monterey County Kids campaign ran a strong effort through canvassing, social media, mailers, and television and radio ads. The campaign earned the endorsements of over 300 local leaders and organizations, including dozens of elected officials. The campaign ultimately struggled from factors outside of its control such as the ramifications from inflation and a lack of high-profile races on the ballot that typically would have encouraged higher numbers of voters. The fund would have raised $5.5 million a year and be paid for by a $49 parcel tax.

South San Francisco, CA

Ballot Title: Measure DD

Campaign: Yes on DD, Preschool for All

Election Result: Lost (47% – 53%)

What It Would Have Funded: Preschool and early education programs

Projected Amount Generated Annually: $68 million

Voters in South San Francisco narrowly defeated a measure that would have dramatically increased resources for preschool and early childhood in the small city (population 64,251). The measure would have raised $70 million a year by imposing a $2.50 per square foot parcel tax on commercial properties larger than 25,000 square feet. The measure aimed to cover all the costs of early childhood education for families with 2 ½- to 5-year-olds who would live or work in the city. The effort was incredibly ambitious but suffered from relentless and well-funded opposition from the biotech industry, which is a major employer with significant commercial property in the community.

Josh Weinstock is a policy associate at Children’s Funding Project.