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Free preschool campaign for Multnomah County gets 32K signatures, aims for November ballot

Universal Preschool Now gathered 32,356 signatures in 5 weeks. The county has until Aug. 5 to validate the signatures.
Credit: Elaine Thompson
A child plays on a xylophone at a preschool in 2018.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A campaign to make preschool free for children in Multnomah County has gathered the required number of signatures to qualify for inclusion on the November 2020 ballot.

The Universal Preschool Now (UP Now) campaign gathered 32,356 signatures in five weeks, surpassing the required 22,686 signatures, and turned them into the county elections office on July 6. The county has until Aug. 5 to validate the signatures.

The news was first reported by nwlaborpress.org.

The initiative would provide universal publicly funded preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the county. It’s backed by 30 different groups, including the Portland Association of Teachers, Jobs with Justice and the National Organization for Women in Oregon.

The funding would come from an income tax on only the top 5% of high-income earners in the county. In addition to providing free preschool for every child, it would also guarantee a wage of $18 per hour for preschool teachers and give them the right to unionize.

Read the full text of the initiative

A second proposed preschool program, Preschool For All, is led by Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. County commissioners are expected to vote in late July whether to put Preschool For All on the November ballot.

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