Harwell not budging on pre-K funding

Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 11:12am

House Speaker Beth Harwell wants the state to hold the line on current funding for the state’s pre-K program for low-income children, although the latest study results show student gains in the program diminish over time.

“Pre-K education is not bad, but it doesn’t give us the long term results that we would like for it to,” Harwell told reporters Thursday.

Despite the results, she said she would stand by Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to maintain current funding for the program for the time being while he awaits the conclusion of the study next year.

Vanderbilt University released the latest update to its multiyear study this month showing initial gains made by pre-K students over their peers who did not attend had diminished by the end of their kindergarten year or first grade.

Some members of Harwell’s House Republican caucus are vocal opponents to the state’s pre-K program. Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) said this week he wants to see the state shift resources now spent on the program elsewhere, such as to “having a great teacher in front of every classroom.”

The state legislature and governor set aside $87 million for the program this year that will send some 18,000 4-year-olds to preschool. The program has an emphasis toward at-risk or high priority communities.

Harwell told reporters holding the program’s funding steady is “reasonable” right now.

“What we do know about pre-K education is for those children that come from disadvantaged home lives, it does make them socially more skilled to enter into a learning environment,” she said. “So, I think it justifies the amount we’re spending now. I wouldn’t like to see us spend additional money.”

6 Comments on this post:

By: 4gold on 8/9/13 at 8:06

Pre K tax dollars? Call it what it is. State funded day care. I learned more by watching Romper Room than I did from going to Kindergarden that my parents paid for. Pre Kindergarden? Give me a break. A tax break that is.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: CoyoteCrawford on 8/9/13 at 11:37

If we increase the middle class, we don't need to spend as much on programs like this. It's kind of like...pay me now...or pay me later.

By: pswindle on 8/9/13 at 12:43

FOR ONCE, I AGREE WITH BETH, PRE-4 IS BADLY NEEDED. THERE IS MORE THAN ABC'S THAT ARE LEARNED. JUST LEARNING ABOUT GOOD BEHAVIOR AND THE WORLD AROUND THEM LAYS THE FOUNDATION FOR LEARNING. IT GIVES THEM AN EVEN FOUNDATION WITH OTHER CHILDREN THAT HAVE ALWAYS HAD THE BASICS.

By: JeffF on 8/9/13 at 1:47

If there are no permanent discernible benefits then there is no reason to spend money on it.I agree wait until the end of the study but do not let mushy feel good, its-for-the-kids nonsense rise to the level of good fiscal or educational policy.

By: govskeptic on 8/12/13 at 10:11

Too many support this program just because it sounds like it would be helpful.
Truth is, in many already completed studies, those that have had Pre-K or not
been in it are about equal by the middle to end of second grade. Conclusion:
Cost is not worth the investment in any kind of long or intermediate advancement.
Same dollars could still be spent in education, but more usefully elsewhere.

By: Balo on 8/12/13 at 2:33

Tests on this subject for the past years (decades) have the same result. The short version is it is a waste of money. There are zero lasting effects for the children.

This is a political issue which the politicians will not pull the plug because they fear suicide at the voting box. No guts.