Nobel Prize Winner Joins Economists in Favor of Universal Preschool Measure

Multnomah County and high-profile economic researchers support a measure that would provide free preschool.

Sellwood Community Center in 2018. (Laurel Kadas)

In the November Voters' Pamphlet, arguments in favor of Measure 26-214, which would provide tuition-free preschool to Multnomah County children, feature 14 economists—including Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz.

It's common for backers of a ballot measure to herd prominent figures to provide testimonials in the Voters' Pamphlet. But Stiglitz is a big score: He once served as chief economist of the World Bank and, in 2011, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. (He's not a Portlander; he teaches at Columbia University in New York City.)

A coalition of advocates and county officials hope he'll influence voters to fund universal preschool with a tax on incomes of more than $150,000 a year.

In their argument, the economists say tuition-free preschool programs "are cost-effective, since all children gain and children from less advantaged families gain the most, and gain more than in programs targeting only children from families with low incomes." They say such programs can reduce poverty and racial disparities, benefiting marginalized communities the most, and provide living wages for teachers.

Ballots arrive in Portland mailboxes in less than two weeks.

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