California is seen as a shining example of how tobacco taxes can be used to both dissuade smoking and also improve children’s health and readiness for school. Now President Obama is following California’s lead. When he presents his budget Wednesday, the president will outline a similar scheme to fund universal preschool, the White House has confirmed to various media outlets.
After Prop 10 passed in 1998, California became one of the first states to raise taxes on cigarettes to fund early education programs. A new agency, First Five California, was created to hand out the money to schools and nonprofits to run education and health programs for children under five.
Scott Moore, a political analyst with Early Edge California, a nonprofit that advocates for increased early education, said California’s experience shows that the president’s plan to increase tobacco taxes to fund universal preschool can provide two returns on the investment.
“You get the return from investing in young kids,” Moore said, “and you get the return in reduced healthcare costs from reduction in smoking.”
According to First 5 California’s most recent report, more than 160,000 children under 6 years old received child development services such as free preschool last year. Moore said the state has become a leader in early education services for low-income families, calling California an “innovation engine” for early childhood services.