MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - City and county leaders took the first formal step forward Wednesday in a joint effort to fund needs-based Pre-K throughout Memphis and Shelby County.
Memphis COO Doug McGowen made a rare sighting across the civic plaza in front of Shelby County Commissioners.
“It really just establishes the fact that we're in it together,” McGowen said.
It’s all to signal a new relationship as the city, county, and Shelby County Schools move forward with a larger offering of needs-based Pre-K.
“That's what we're shooting for is to make sure that we have a comprehensive needs-based Pre-K program in our community and make sure there are high quality classrooms around our community,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.
This marks the first time the city would invest in education since the city/county school merger in 2013.
Shelby County upped its contribution to $8 million, and SCS indicated it would add $2 million to existing programs.
The Pre-K push started because a federal grant expires in July 2019 that would eliminate up to 1,000 seats. The new plan will stop that gap and add more seats.
“Pre-K helps us to get a leg up on literacy rates early on,” Mayor Harris said.
The city council and county commission will each have to approve measures which launch the program and establish a fiscal agent to oversee it.
Mayor Harris said the group put in place to oversee will likely be education nonprofit Seeding Success, which was instrumental in the push for Pre-K.
Wednesday’s approval by a county commission committee is the first time the formal plan has gone before either body.
“It will be a performance-based contract that the city and county must get the performance we’re expected for our investment,” McGowen said.