By: Amy Griffith Graydon,
March 25, 2009

Volunteers from across the state are asking legislators Thursday to protect state pre-kindergarten education funding.

Mobilized by groups including the Tennessee Alliance for Early Education, Tennessee Stand for Children and United Ways of Tennessee, about 100 people are at the state capitol today to ask for commitments that Gov. Phil Bredesen’s proposed budget for pre-kindergarten education will be preserved.

“I’m really encouraged by the turnout of parents and teachers, especially, who are here to talk about pre-K,” said Andy Spears, director of policy and outreach for Stand for Children. “It’s absolutely critical that people who are involved in public schools talk to our legislators, either on a day like this or by email or by phone.”

Today is Pre-K Day on the Hill for the many organizations statewide affiliated with the Tennessee Alliance for Early Education, as well as United Way of Tennessee’s Day on the Hill. Volunteers are meeting with legislators from across the state including Rep. Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), Reps. Mark Norris (R-Memphis) and Paul Stanley (R-Memphis) and Rep. Kent Coleman (D-Murfreesboro). Also on the schedule are meetings with most members of the Davidson County Delegation, according to Spears.

Given the current budget climate, Spears said, volunteers are asking that every single pre-K classroom established by the state of Tennessee stay in place. Gov. Bredesen said in his budget recommendation to the legislature earlier this week that he wants funding for pre-K education, as well as the state’s Basic Education Plan (BEP), to be protected for the next four years. The full text of Bredesen’s speech is available at

Mary Graham, president of United Way of Tennessee, said investment on pre-k goes along way. She cited research linking pre-k programs with decreased rates of teen pregnancy, lower high school drop-out levels, and increased preparedness for school.

“It’s money well spent, in terms of return for the dollar,” Graham said.

Metro Nashville Public Schools has pre-k programs at 32 public schools funded with state and Title I dollars. Tennessee’s $80 million pre-K program currently serves 17,000 4-year-olds statewide.

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