L.A. To Spend Smoke Tax on Schools
LOS ANGELES â€“â€“ Officials voted to spend $100 million in tobacco tax money to pay for free preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in Los Angeles County.
The program, unanimously approved Thursday by the Los Angeles County Children and Families First Proposition 10 Commission, could begin enrolling toddlers within six months.
Proposition 10, approved by voters in 1998, was designed to generate an estimated $700 million annually for social services aimed at families with children under age 5, including prenatal care, stop-smoking programs, immunizations and domestic violence prevention. The measure added a 50-cent tax to each pack of cigarettes.
The nine-member county commission was established to oversee revenues that began flowing in 2000, and are distributed by a state commission.
The preschool initiative will initially target low-income children eligible for subsidized care, expanding half-day programs to a full day. In time, the program will open to middle-income families and eventually, will provide enhanced child care for infants, too, regardless of family income.
The program will be phased in over several years.
Filmmaker Rob Reiner, one of the leaders of the Proposition 10 campaign and chairman of the state commission, said the preschool program may become a model for the nation.
"It's one of the most significant investments ever in the history of early childhood development," Reiner said. "When you make an investment in early care and education ... we see reduced crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse."
At least 100,000 toddlers in Los Angeles County are on waiting lists for subsidized care, according to a statewide study released in June by the University of California, Berkeley.