Press Releases

Senate Dems Attack Campfield, Say He’s Out of Touch on Pre-K

Press Release from Senate Democratic Caucus; Aug. 18, 2010:

Campfield at Odds with East Tennesseans’ Support of Early Childhood Education

KNOXVILLE – In repeatedly making erroneous and misleading comments about Tennessee’s highly successful pre-K program, Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), the Republican nominee for State Senate District 7, has proven himself out of step with the community he wants to represent and the colleagues he hopes to join.

“Representative Campfield seems to have little to no idea what pre-K programs do, how they are funded or their role in education,” said Sen. Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga), Secretary of the Senate Education Committee and a member of the Joint Committee on Education Oversight. “His opposition to pre-K shows a lack of interest in how we bring jobs to Tennessee in both the short and long run.”

Campfield has long been an opponent of the pre-K program, which has proven highly successful in preparing students for early elementary school classes. The program is supported by The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Tennessee Business Roundtable, and the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce features pre-K in publications encouraging people to move to the city.

The reforms and strategies implemented through the state’s successful pre-K program were also crucial to Tennessee winning $501 million in federal education Race to the Top funds.

Campfield attacked pre-K in an August 15 entry on his blog, erroneously claiming that Gov. Phil Bredesen “continues to raid the lottery scholarship fund to pay for a program that has repeatedly proven to be without long term value. The pre K program.”

Campfield apparently failed to pay attention while voting for the budget, which provides that pre-K is paid for entirely out of the state’s general fund. Instead, he writes erroneously that, “the governors (sic) Pre K program … continues to be funded by the lottery scholarship fund.”

But Campfield doesn’t just get the facts wrong about pre-K and education. He continues to hold a position contrary to that of his Knoxville-area Republican colleagues in the Senate, including Sen. Jamie Woodson, who is listed as a champion of pre-K expansion by advocacy group pre[k]now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.

“Senator Jamie Woodson is [then-]Chair of the Education Committee and a rising leader of the Tennessee General Assembly,” states “Her support for the sizable pre-k expansions of 2005 and 2006 are widely credited with helping the initiatives become reality.”

Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) has also shown his support for pre-K, saying in a pre[k]now publication that early education programs in his district were in heavy demand. Sen. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), as chair of the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee, has overseen the passage of four budgets including pre-K since 2007.

Even Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam, Knoxville’s mayor, has said he supports the continued funding of pre-K, especially in his home county.

“I would hate to see the pre-K that’s in place now cut, because I think you do have some very effective models, and this is one of them,” Haslam told in an April 27, 2010 report.

The overwhelming support for pre-K from business interests and his Knoxville Republican colleagues doesn’t seem to affect Rep. Campfield’s position. Instead, Campfield has repeatedly ignored his mistakes about the issue and has even lashed out at sitting senators.

“For Representative Campfield, it’s easier to get the facts wrong and argue than hear from community leaders on critical matters like education,” Berke said. “I worry that when we face tough choices in the future, Stacey Campfield just isn’t going to take the time to listen to anyone but himself.”

Knoxville businessman Randy Walker is the Democratic nominee opposing Campfield in District 7. He supports early childhood education and wants to continue the successful pre-K program established by Gov. Phil Bredesen.