The Portland City Council should vote Feb. 20 to place renewal of the Children's Investment Fund levy on the November general election ballot.

Voters approved the initial five-year levy in 2002 to collect $42 million citywide to invest in early childhood education, child-abuse prevention and intervention programs, after-school programs, and youth mentoring.

Since then, more than 60 grants have been directed to 60 existing private nonprofit and public programs to aid Portland kids in important, life-altering ways.

The program works. Ninety-five percent of the taxes collected go directly to help get youngsters ready for kindergarten and first grade, break patterns of domestic violence, offer safe and productive after-school activities, and expand mentoring by proper role models.

The Children's Investment Fund requires dollars. But fortunately, its focus is not money, but measured results. For example, 82 percent of the children attending early childhood programs have been judged to be meeting key educational and social milestones.

Other youth participants have seen improvements in their behavior, and evidence indicates that safer and more stable home environments have followed the efforts in child-abuse prevention.

The city of Portland cannot take the place of schools in educating kids - or of parents in properly raising youngsters. But the City Council should give voters the chance to continue to invest in nonprofit and public partnerships that effectively and affordably do great things for kids in need.

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