NASHVILLE – Senate Democratic leaders thanked Governor Bill Haslam Thursday for refusing to tie his proposal for increased Pre-Kindergarten funding to the introduction of government giveaways to private academies through school vouchers.
“I applaud the Governor’s refusal to play politics with the Pre-K program,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney. “Many parents I talk with are asking for more Pre-K classrooms, especially in rural areas. Whether or not the administration and the legislature ultimately expand the program is a very worthy debate, and one that should not be tangled up in a dispute over the effectiveness of a school voucher program.”
When addressing separate proposals regarding Pre-K funding and vouchers, Haslam told the Associated Press, “I don’t think they’re coupled at all.”
“In both cases it’s one of those where both of them are controversial, but at the end of the day our mission is to figure out what’s effective and what works,” Haslam told the AP.
The state’s Pre-K program began under Republican Governor Don Sundquist and expanded to serve more than 18,000 children under Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen, according to the report. Haslam has discussed further expansions of Pre-K, which helped Tennessee secure $501 million in Race to the Top funds and has increasingly improved student achievement, especially for children from low-income households.
“I support the Governor’s consideration of expanding Pre-K, and I look forward to seeing the specifics of his proposal,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle, who sponsored Bredesen’s current expansion of Pre-K and its funding.
“Pre-K gives thousands of Tennessee children a head start on a quality education and prepares them for a lifetime of learning. All other progress we make in Tennessee schools begins with the foundation we lay in the Pre-K program.”