Oakland Children’s Initiative

Dedicated Funding Streams

  • Property Tax

Oakland, California

The Oakland Children’s Initiative (Measure AA) was approved by voters in November 2018 and was upheld by the courts in 2021. This charter amendment authorizes the City of Oakland to collect $198 per year in parcel tax on single-family homes, and $135.25 per year per unit of multi-unit residences, from FY 2019-20 to FY 2048-49. This will produce around $35 million annually in funding for early care and education and college preparedness programs for Oakland residents for the next 30 years. Qualifying low-income households can be exempted from the parcel tax.

Sixty-two percent of the tax revenue is used to expand access to and quality of early education and child care. Another seven percent is used for oversight and accountability, including the cost of operating the mayor-appointed Citizens’ Oversight Commission, which administers audits, implementation planning, and outreach. 

Oakland leaders aim to use this revenue to deliver preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in the city within a decade. For now, initial investments will improve facilities serving 3- and 4-year-olds and provide staffing support. The funds will also provide professional development, training, and coaching for early educators, as well as increase access to classroom materials and technology.

Measure AA was entangled in legal battles following its initial approval by 62% of voters. Although the measure specified that it needed two-thirds approval to pass, the City Council later determined that only a simple majority, or 50%, was needed. In January 2019, the Oakland Jobs and Housing Coalition, along with a group of property owners, sued the City of Oakland, arguing that the City Council certified Measure AA unlawfully, given that it failed to earn support from two-thirds of the voters. But in December 2021, a California appeals court upheld the measure’s passage on the legal grounds that citizen-led ballot initiatives need only a simple majority, regardless of the language on the ballot.

Sources:

City of Oakland. (2018). Measure AA.

Ballotpedia. (2018). Oakland, California, Measure AA, Education Parcel Tax Charter Amendment.

New America. (2023). In the San Francisco Bay Area, Two New Funds Support Early Care and Education.

First 5 Alameda County. (n.d.). Ballot Measures.

Oakland North. (2019). Lawsuit challenges Oakland’s certification of education funding tax Measure AA.

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:

Stable, robust funding is essential to expanding and improving early education. Unlike K-12 education, early education has historically been supported through a fragmented – and largely insufficient – set of federal, state, and local funds. Research suggests there is a need for more accessible, affordable, and high-quality approach to early education across the mixed-delivery system – and for better financial and professional supports for the educators who serve children and families each day; creating dedicated funding streams can therefore help states and cities address these needs and achieve these goals.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) show:

  • Families rely on a range of formal (e.g., Head Start, center-based care, public pre-K) and more informal (e.g., home-based, relative care) early education settings; when choosing a setting for their child, families balance many logistical constraints and personal preferences.
  • But for many families – and especially low- and middle-income families – early education choices remain tightly constrained due to issues of affordability and supply.
  • No one early education setting type is inherently of higher quality than another; children develop and learn well in every setting type, and in the study, all setting types showed room to grow in quality.
  • Early educators play a critical role in supporting the well-being of young children and families across setting types.
  • Yet their pay, benefits, and other professional supports are often inadequate in light of the job demands and their cost of living.
Learn More about ELS@H Findings

Learn more about Oakland

Context matters. Visit the Oakland profile page to learn more about the city landscape.

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  • The city population is 430,553
  • The percentage of children under age 5 is 5.70%
  • The median family income for households with children is $106,700