Stand for Children wields new power on sales tax - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Stand for Children wields new power on sales tax

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Stand For Children, a power political action group, is throwing its weight and money behind the campaign to vote yes on a county-wide sales tax increase. The PAG showed its influence in getting four school board candidates elected to the Unified schools board.

Now, it wants to see the voters elect to raise sales tax by a half-cent.

The group says it will treat this issue as a candidate, raising and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. In a news conference on Wednesday, several organizations and local leaders came out in favor of the half-cent sales increase for Shelby County.

MORE: Read the full ballot

But, the real muscle behind the movement is Stand for Children.

The group formed a referendum committee called "Our Kids, Our Future," and is actively raising funds.

"To run an effective campaign like this, you're looking at above hundreds of thousands of dollars to make an effective campaign in media and mail," says Director Mark Sturgis with the Memphis chapter Stand for Children.

The social media campaign is up and running with Twitter and Facebook pages. Sturgis says to expect mailers and TV commercials as well.

Stand for Children recently made news after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in local school board and state representative elections. The group was very successful.

There was some criticism that out of state money bought local representatives. Stand for Children does not have to reveal its contributors.

But, Sturgis says this campaign is local.

"Most of the money we've raised has been local supporters, small donations, but they're adding up," says Sturgis.

A big part of the campaign will be highlighting expanded pre-k education. It's an expensive proposition that Stand for Children hopes will be covered by the tax increase, and well worth the millions expanded pre-k would cost.

"When you talk to the first grade teachers, second grade teachers, they know these children have come through a program that is high quality, rigorous, and outcomes associated with education.  And you can tell a difference."

But, there's no guarantee the Unified School Board will expand pre-k, whether the tax increase passes or not. But, Sturgis points to the four school board members elected with Stand for Children money and the influence of the political player.

"This campaign is driven by the community, we will have political power over those people making decisions about the allocation of his money, if we help it pass."

Only Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County voters will get a say on this issue.

State law says because the suburbs already voted for a sales tax increase, they don't get to vote again. This passing would take about half the money the suburbs were counting on for their municipal school districts.

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