Gov. Bill Haslam, Tuesday, reiterated his determination to keep funding pre-kindergarten programs in Tennessee at current levels but remained mum about any future plans for expansion.
Speaking to reporters in Jackson, Haslam commented on recent preliminary results from a study by Vanderbilt University comparing the performance of students exposed to pre-k programs and those who are not. The study is ongoing, but the report released last week shows mixed results, especially relating to how long benefits of pre-k education last.
“The results they just reported were a little discouraging in terms of the amount of gain that those pre-k students held on to,” Haslam said Tuesday. “But,” he continued, “we think there are other things to measure and our commitment is to keep funding at its current level until we see another year of two of the study and then we’ll decide from there.”
As The Tennessean reports, the state currently spends about $86 million on pre-k programs, mostly for low income children, and it is eligible to add another $64 million in federal money if Haslam and the legislature agree to put up another $6.4 million in state funds, something that could be less politically viable given the recent Vanderbilt results.
Some critics of pre-k spending including Knoxville Republican state Rep. Bill Dunn have already jumped on the report in recent days. In a statement earlier this week, Dunn dismissed pre-k programs as “very expensive hype.”
For his part, Haslam brushed past any mention of possible political snags, saying Tuesday that his administration would wait at least another year for final results of the study before making any decisions about pursuing the federal expansion dollars.