A new report on quality and access to early education programs across the country gives Memphis a bronze medal, mainly for providing prekindergarten for at least 30 percent of the city’s 4-year-olds, and Nashville a gold medal for meeting both quality and accessibility standards.
The report said in addition to accessibility, Memphis met benchmarks related to classroom size, teacher-child ratio, and teacher education level, but missed the mark when it came to curriculum or learning goals, teacher professional development, and local funding commitment.
Nashville met criteria for accessibility, classroom size, teacher-child ratio, teacher education level, local funding, and professional development. Both Memphis and Nashville met standards for salary equity, meaning that prekindergarten teachers were paid similar to K-12 teachers.
The report was produced by CityHealth, a policy advocacy group, and the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, an authority on pre-K research.
Memphis officials were quick to take issue with the report’s finding regarding local financial support. “Mayor (Jim) Strickland has been committed to pre-K funding since he’s been on the council,” said Doug McGowen, the city’s chief operating officer. He also noted that as a councilman, the mayor advanced two pre-K referendums, although both were defeated by voters.
Most of the 5,600 subsidized preschool seats in Shelby County Schools are funded through state and federal grants. Last year, the Memphis City Council allocated $8 million to replace an expiring federal grant and another $8 million to add 1,000 preschool slots, McGowen said.
After 2021, he said, the city will maintain $6 million in annual funding. Shelby County government is working on additional funding streams.
Read the full report below: