Harris County Judge Has Big Questions About Petition For Education Tax

As we reported earlier this week, a group in Harris County is collecting signatures to put a proposed property tax on the ballot in November. The campaign is called Early to Rise. The penny tax increase would support early education. While some polling shows early support, one prominent critic has emerged. 

If all goes according to its plan, the Early to Rise campaign will present thousands of voter signatures in a few weeks to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

He’s far from thrilled. He calls the petition for a property tax for early education a “fiasco.”

“It’s worse every time I look at it because there are so many unanswered questions.”

His first question is about the petition process itself. Emmett says the campaign is using an arcane, little-known law to get the proposal on the ballot.

He’s asked the county attorney to check if the law actually applies.

“There are just more questions than there are answers and before we go off willy-nilly off on some petition drive, that is questionable whether or not they can even do it.”

Another question is who would handle the tax money.

Campaign leaders say the Harris County Department of Education would collect the tax.

Then it would go to a nonprofit called the Harris County School Readiness Corporation. That board would administer the money to different vendors for early education.

“Well, I don’t think the taxpayers are going to go along with that, I think they’re going to say, ‘Wait a minute. If we want the elected officials to have the money, then they ought to be the ones making the decision,’” says Emmett.

The voters will ultimately decide if they want a new tax.

There could be competition with other items.

Emmett says the county is considering its own ballot measures for the Astrodome and to build a processing center for the jail. 

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...