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County commission will consider giving SCS $6 million for pre-K

Students in Memphis help each other with their vocabulary at Sharpe Elementary, one of 85 Tennessee schools recognized by the state Monday for test score growth in the 2014-15 school year.
Students in Memphis help each other with their vocabulary at Sharpe Elementary, one of 85 Tennessee schools recognized by the state Monday for test score growth in the 2014-15 school year.
Tajuana Cheshier

The County Commission’s education committee voted on Wednesday to provide an extra $6 million to Shelby County Schools for pre-kindergarten classes.

But the initiative was not supported by all of the committee members and it isn’t clear whether this will be supported by the full commission.

“Amending the budget by $6 million essentially takes us right out of balance,” said Harvey Kennedy, the county’s chief administrative officer, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Commission Chairman James Harvey said that money from a budget surplus and from savings could pay for it without throwing the budget out of whack.

Mayor Mark Luttrell’s office tried to push a smaller $3 million dollar pre-K proposal and is planning on developing its own public-private partnership to fund pre-K.

Several educators and politicians have been working to find alternative methods of funding for pre-K after a referendum to expand the county’s offerings lost last November.

Advocates contend that only 30 percent of students currently enter kindergarten prepared for school and universal pre-K would help fix that.

Earlier this month, the Shelby County Schools board accepted $33 million in federal and state grants to take over the area’s Head Start. Administrators said at the time that they will use their control of the city’s program, that offers health, social and education services to low-income children under five, to emphasize reading skills, teacher accountability and kindergarten readiness.

The commission is expected to vote on the initiative at its Monday meeting.

The Education Committee also voted to raise the salaries for county school board members from $4,200 to $14,000.

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