Pre-K Referendum Fails in Memphis Vote

Posted on January 23, 2014


By Jenny Bitzer


Memphis voters hit the polls November 21st for a referendum proposing a sales tax increase by a half cent to fund an expansion of pre-K in Memphis. This pre-K expansion would have reached over 5,000 children in Memphis providing them with quality early education. The referendum failed with 89% of voters choosing not to vote for the sales tax increase for the pre-K program, making this the second year in a row that a pre-K expansion was shot down. While many voters agreed that the pre-K program would improve our city, the distribution of the tax money seemed to be the issue in question. City officials failed to outline clearly the proposed use of the funds in the future, causing unrest among voters.

With significant pre-K cuts looming over the city in the future, many are disappointed in the vote due to how many children would have benefited from this expansion. In a city with a large number of failing schools, and high poverty levels, many believe pre-K is what Memphis needs to keep moving forward with education in the city.

It’s as simple as this; early education is vital for children to succeed. Pre-school training has shown to have a long-term impact on a child’s education, showing lasting effects through high school and even college. It is vital that children get early education to prepare them to enter Kindergarten. Children who may not have at home resources for early education will likely fall behind with pre-K cuts.

Many cities that look a lot like Memphis have shown to be good models for what our pre-K program should look like, including New York City and San Antonio. It seems that a much bigger conversation needs to be had amongst stakeholders in order to provide students of Memphis with quality early education, due to the shooting down of increased sales taxes.  This referendum may not have passed but reformers will continue to fight for quality education for all children in this city.

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Jenny Bitzer is a senior Psychology major and Education minor at Rhodes College and is starting her work with Teach for America in Memphis next year.

Posted in: Education