Campaign for Early Education Tax Finishes Petition Drive, Faces Critical Next Step

Aldine Superintendent Wanda Bamberg and Houston Superintendent Terry Grier say they can tell when a child comes to school ready to learn. They spoke with James Calaway, one of the leaders of the Early to Rise campaign. The campaign has collected thousands of signatures to put a dedicated tax for early education in Harris County on the ballot in November.
For weeks, a campaign has been collecting signatures to put a new tax on the ballot in November. If passed, the proposed tax would create $25 million dollars to improve early education in Harris County. The next week will be critical to see if the proposal gets on the ballot.

Next week leaders with the Early to Rise campaign plan to deliver more than 100,000 signatures to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

They’re also counting on new support from superintendents in Aldine, Cypress-Fairbanks, Houston and Humble.

James Calaway chairs the group leading the campaign.

“Then the judge has an administrative duty to count those and within five days agree to put them on the ballot. We’re highly confident that’s exactly what the judge will do. Then it will be on the November 5th ballot.”

But it might not be that easy.

Robert Soard with the Harris County Attorney’s office is preparing a letter to the Attorney General. He has legal questions.

“The judge has asked and we’ve complied with his request that we ask the Attorney General to give an opinion about whether that part of the law that deals with having a tax for the Department of Education can be used to increase the tax.”

The tax would cost the average homeowner about $18 dollars a year.

Another question is about the language on the petition itself.

“Whether the language on the petition requesting that the tax be restricted to early childhood development complies with the education code.”

He says it might take six months to get an answer from the Attorney General.

So the county attorney will probably have to make a decision much sooner.

For its part, the campaign for the early education tax is confident the petition will pass these legal hurdles.

 

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...