Cities Increase Taxes to Support Child Care: Parents Share Impact of Free Day Care

During the previous summer, Derrika Richard found herself in a challenging situation. As a hairstylist with three young children aged 1, 2, and 3, she struggled to afford child care while balancing the demands of her profession. Despite her efforts, Richard’s income wasn’t sufficient to cover child care costs, and she faced rejection from one assistance program due to her work hours. This predicament left her feeling trapped: she couldn’t work without child care, yet affording care was impossible without work.

However, Richard’s circumstances changed dramatically in the fall when she enrolled her children in Clara’s Little Lambs, a child care center in New Orleans, through a city-funded program called City Seats. This initiative provided free child care to low-income families, enabling Richard to work and pursue online classes for the first time. Reflecting on the impact of City Seats, she expressed gratitude, stating, “It changed my life.”

This report on the child care crisis and potential solutions is part of a series produced by the Education Reporting Collaborative, a coalition of eight newsrooms, including The Hechinger Report,, The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Dallas Morning News, Idaho Education News, The Post & Courier, and The Seattle Times.

In response to the pressing need for accessible child care, New Orleans took significant steps to expand child care capacity. After voters approved a historic property tax increase in 2022, the city added over 1,000 child care seats for low-income families. This move substantially increased funding for child care programs, with the program’s budget rising from $3 million to $21 million annually for the next two decades. Additionally, Louisiana’s early childhood fund matched the local contributions, providing an additional $21 million to support families’ child care needs.

New Orleans is part of a broader trend, with communities across the country passing ballot measures to enhance child care access. For instance, Whatcom County, Washington, allocated $10 million for child care and children’s mental health through a property tax increase, while Anchorage, Alaska, expects to generate over $5 million for early childhood programs from a marijuana sales tax.

In Texas, a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in November enables tax relief for qualifying child care providers. Cities and counties can now choose to exempt child care centers from paying some or all of their property taxes, with Dallas being among the first to implement this tax break.

These local initiatives primarily focus on infants and toddlers, reflecting a growing recognition of the economic impact of inadequate child care, particularly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic exacerbated the child care crisis, with many parents experiencing disruptions in their employment due to child care challenges. In Louisiana, nearly a third of households with children under age 5 reported child care disruptions, according to Census Household Pulse Survey data.

In New Orleans, City Seats has been transformative for parents working in low-wage jobs, enabling them to maintain employment while accessing quality child care. The program has also benefited child care centers, ensuring fair wages for staff and fostering professional development opportunities. Despite the positive outcomes, City Seats faces challenges, including a waitlist of over 800 students and ongoing efforts to improve child care quality.

The initiative emphasizes supporting high-quality child care providers and investing in staff salaries, recognizing the essential role of educators in children’s development. Wilcox Academy, a participant in the City Seats program, has raised average staff pay to $18 an hour, with plans to further increase wages to $25 an hour. This commitment reflects the value placed on early childhood educators and the importance of providing them with fair compensation and support.

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