When I get impatient my mother reminds me of the words of one of her favorite writers, Anne Lamott: take things “bird by bird.” That is what we, as children and youth advocates, must do now. It is what the forces in this country who have been working against equity and opportunity for all have been doing for decades, and they’ve been winning. What happened on November 3 was not a blue wave nor a red wave; while we were all glued to the news shows, a subtle children’s wave swept the country. Voters passed seven down-ballot measures that together will raise more than $5 billion new dollars for kids over the next decade. Though these places differed in size, income, and politics, they all voted to prioritize their kids: Portland, OR; the state of Colorado; San Antonio, TX; St. Louis, MO; Cincinnati, OH; Pensacola and Tallahassee, FL.

It is clear that America will be divided for some time to come. However, “localism,” a term that has grabbed my attention for the last 5 years, provides a feasible path forward. Over the next decade, Children’s Funding Project plans to support local communities that are organizing and moving forward to close equity and opportunity gaps for their children. Our country has an abundance of wealth that localities are not tapping into for kids. We will continue to work with local communities, and then – when the nation is ready – the country as a whole.

For now, as Lamott says, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.” Let’s do what we can to build the models of what good looks like where we can, and be ready to take the full step when the time is right.

A look at the successful measures below:

Multnomah County, OR

  • Multnomah County passed a progressive income tax on high-income earners to fund universal, tuition-free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds by 2030. The tax will generate an estimated $133 million next year (and $202 million annually by 2026), and funds will be used to add 7,000 new slots by fall 2026 with fair wages for providers and high-quality, culturally responsive opportunities that meet children’s needs.

San Antonio, TX(renewal)

  • San Antonio renewed its ⅛ cent sales tax that generates $38 million annually for Pre-K 4 SA. Pre-K 4 SA serves 2,000 four-year olds annually in its centers while supporting extended school days, increased access, and improved quality for thousands of children in other early childhood education settings. Multiple independent evaluations have shown that students who attend a Pre-K 4 SA program, particularly students who are economically disadvantaged or with limited English proficiency, end the year ahead of their peers in math and language.

St. Louis, MO

  • St. Louis passed a 6 cent (0.6 mill) property tax increase to raise $2.3 million for birth-to-five programs and services, administered by the St. Louis Mental Health Board’s Community Children’s Services Fund. The fund was originally established in 2004 and has a particular focus on children’s mental health, providing psychiatric treatment, substance use prevention, family counseling, and more.

Escambia County and Leon County, FL

  • Escambia County and Leon County succeeded in joining the ten other counties in Florida with dedicated property tax revenue to Children’s Services Councils! Escambia and Leon County will institute 5 cent (0.5 mill) property tax increases to raise $7-8 million annually in each county, increasing the total property tax revenue of Children’s Services Councils in Florida to over $545 million collectively.


  • Colorado’s Measure EE will increase tobacco taxes and close the vaping loophole. It is slated to raise $87 million next year, increasing to $276 million by 2028. This revenue will initially go to backfilling the state education budget and funding affordable housing/eviction assistance, but will also put $2 billion into universal pre-k over the next decade.

Cincinnati, OH (renewal)

  • Cincinnati Public Schools succeeded in its renewal of a 73 cent (7.34 mill) emergency property tax levy for a period of five years, raising $48 million. Around 30% of the levy is dedicated to funding Cincinnati Preschool Promise, which has helped provide high-quality preschool for nearly 5,000 3- and 4-year-olds since the original levy was passed in 2016 with 62% of the vote.


An honorable mention goes to Los Angeles County advocates and voters who successfully passed Measure J, which amends the county’s charter to require 10% of locally-generated revenue go to community investment and alternatives to incarceration. One of the primary intended purposes includes youth development programs.

Elizabeth Gaines is founder and CEO of Children’s Funding Project.