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City announces plan to fund Pre-Kindergarten
City announces plan to fund Pre-Kindergarten
Posted on 03/17/2018

Strickland and attendeesMayor Jim Strickland and members of the Memphis City Council announced today a City plan to take a significant step toward fully funding needs-based Pre-Kindergarten for Memphis children.

Using money from expiring tax incentives and dedicating the equivalent of revenues from one cent of the current property tax rate toward a Pre-K fund, the City plan will generate $6 million per year of City of Memphis funding toward Pre-K by 2022.

“Pre-K is a shared goal of our community,” Mayor Strickland said. “It’s so that every child has a better opportunity to read. So that every child has a better opportunity to take advantage of the momentum our city offers. So that every child gets a level shot at a better outcome for their life.

“Making sure that our kids who need it the most have access to quality Pre-K is one of the most important actions we can take today for the long-term improvement of the city we all love.”

Mayor Strickland and council members have long championed early childhood education as a critical component of addressing Memphis’ challenges such as poverty and crime. Studies have shown that a child that can read at a third-grade level by third grade has a 90 percent chance of graduating high school — thus achieving a better outcome in life. The City has initiated literacy programming and after-school tutoring in community centers and has called for citizens to tutor second-graders as part of a Shelby County Schools program.

Under the City proposal, funding will come from two sources:

  • New property tax revenue coming to the City from expiring tax incentives (PILOTs). That new tax revenue will be dedicated to a Pre-K fund.
  • Dedicating the equivalent of revenues from one cent of the City’s property tax rate solely for Pre-K. This is not an additional one cent; rather it is an existing part of the current tax revenues that can be dedicated to Pre-K thanks to the City’s implementation of more efficient budget practices under the Strickland administration's and council's leadership.

The proposal will be formally presented to the Memphis City Council as an ordinance at its Tuesday, March 20 meeting. The ordinance would become law after three readings.

“This is a creative solution that doesn’t touch what we’re doing now with our operating budget — doesn’t touch what we’re doing with core services like police and fire,” Mayor Strickland said.

Tax incentives — known as PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) — are agreements with companies to reduce the amount of property tax a firm pays for a few years. That’s in exchange for bringing or expanding businesses, thus creating jobs, wages, taxable investment, and contracts for local businesses.

Mayor Strickland was joined on today’s program by Council Chairman Berlin Boyd and council members Kemp Conrad and Patrice Robinson.

Here’s some of what they said:

  • Boyd: “It’s an exciting time to be a Memphian. The unique part about this funding mechanism, as the mayor said, is we are not raising our property taxes. But we’re understanding and providing solutions within City government to fully come up with $6 million to fully support this overwhelming need in our city.”
  • Conrad: “Today, 45 percent, or almost half of Memphis children, live below poverty. It’s unacceptable, and I truly believe this plan will change that. … I believe this is one of the most important initiatives in the history of Memphis.”
  • Robinson: “To give the children a hand up, a lift up, at Pre-K, is something that will never, ever, ever be forgotten. It will have a great impact upon their lives.”

The City plan to provide $6 million toward Pre-K is a meaningful step toward the $16 million needed to fully fund Pre-K. That gap can be met from a number of different sources.

Currently, 7,500 seats of Pre-K are funded — out of the estimated total needs-based enrollment of 8,500. But a federal grant that funds 1,000 seats expires next year, meaning the gap could be as much as 2,000 seats.

Mayor Strickland and the council members were joined by Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr. and Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

Said Luttrell: “I am proud to stand with Mayor Strickland today as a united community at the mayors’ level. Certainly, we look forward to what we have to do on the county side to join you all next year with continuing the funding.”

Said Hopson: “I’m very excited to be a part of this. I think this is a great first step in what has been a significant strategy that we have been trying to implement in the last five years.”

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