Strong Start Tucson

Penelope Jacks is the campaign chair for Proposition 204.

They never mention children or children’s futures. Perhaps they don’t care about kids, or perhaps because they know Tucson’s voters do care. Out-of-state billionaires, the Koch brothers, are using their Americans for Prosperity PAC, along with local big businesses, to inundate Tucson with misleading, scaremongering mailers, phone calls and commercials opposing Proposition 204 Strong Start Tucson.

The obvious: Virtually all education experts and child advocates agree about the value of high-quality preschool for children, families and the economic strength of a community. Prop. 204 will, very simply, provide scholarships to high-quality preschool to between 6,500 and 8,000 children ages 3 and 4.

The criticisms of Prop. 204 are easily addressed and are, when examined, advantages.

The people’s commission: The Strong Start Tucson Commission is composed of Tucson citizens, which is its strength — not its flaw. Citizens will safeguard against mismanagement, foot-dragging and special interests. They will bring common sense, business sense and education expertise to the implementation and oversight of Prop. 204. Citizens will provide stewardship over the people’s money.

Sunrise, sunset: The lack of a sunset clause strengthens — not weakens — Prop. 204. A sunset clause would make sense if Strong Start Tucson were a pilot project or an experiment. It is neither. We’ve had dozens of pilots and studies nationwide, and they all demonstrate the same thing: High-quality preschool works and is hugely cost-effective.

Benchmarks for performance and standards of quality have long been articulated and are well known among education experts and analysts. In the unlikely event that Tucson proves to be an exception to every study and different from every other community, repeal by initiative or referral remains an option. In the meantime, there is no sunset on business as usual — doing nothing.

A sunset clause would give big business and the Koch brothers another opportunity to undermine a well-thought-out and proven strategy. It would give them another chance to stand between kids and their equal chance to succeed. Strong Start Tucson is a sunrise for Tucson’s kids.

The real reason big business and the Koch brothers oppose Prop. 204: It’s a tax, and they don’t like any taxes. That‘s why they are spending a boatload of money on the “no” campaign.

Tucson does not tax groceries, medicine, services, public transportation or rent, which are how low-income families must spend their money.

Luxury items, cars and restaurant meals, which are what richer people can buy, are taxed. Tuition for high-quality preschool can cost half of a low-income family’s income, but it is only a fraction of the income of a rich family. The taxes on the purchases of the well-to-do will go a long way to fund the Strong Start Tucson sliding-scale scholarships so more children can go to a high-quality preschool.

Prop. 204-Strong Start Tucson is a people’s initiative. Citizens wrote it; citizens will take responsibility for it; citizens will reap the benefits. It is the biggest action against poverty and inequity Tucson has ever undertaken.

Let’s not allow big money or old-time politics divert us from creating a strong future for our children, our families and our city.

Penelope Jacks is the chair of the Strong Start Tucson Campaign and a lifelong advocate for children. Contact her at