Three state lawmakers say they will work to put a tobacco tax increase on the ballot to raise money for early childhood education in Missouri.

Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis, (D) St. Louis was joined by Senators Jamilah Nasheed, (D) St. Louis, and Maria Chappelle-Nadal, (D) St. Louis, Saturday afternoon argue for the need to empower young black children with enhanced academic resources at the earliest age possible.

“We have seen some of our elected officials propose a Missouri Promise to help kids afford to go to college, but I ask what is our promise to the young people in failing schools who will never be in position to pursue the benefits of higher education?,” asked Curtis. “We need a greatly enhanced commitment to putting our children in a position to succeed at the earliest age possible. Early childhood education represents the best possible investment for minority children who may otherwise never have an opportunity to obtain a quality education.”

The lawmakers and local elected officials at the news conference pledged their support for placing an initiative petition on the November 2016 ballot to raise the state’s tobacco tax by 50 cents. Curtis added, “The latest test results released for Missouri students reaffirm what we have known for far too long; that minority students are not being adequately prepared to succeed in college or the workplace. We must take action now to invest in early childhood education or risk losing another generation. It’s imperative that these efforts to invest in our children’s future at the earliest ages be supported by any and all elected officials or candidates who want the support of the black community.”

They say the increase would raise approximately $250 million annually that would go toward funding early childhood education programs.