(WMC-TV) - The unified Shelby County Schools budget battle focused on the youngest of students Tuesday, and whether all Pre-K classes are even worth saving.
It was the first official budget overview for the board. While Pre-K cuts are part of the plan, the district is not obligated by law to provide it.
Talk of numbers and next year's budget failed to keep everyone awake, but the Unified School Board itself was fully focused on interim superintendent Dorsey Hopson's overview.
"You'll see we have a ton of positions eliminated, a ton of programs eliminated," he said.
That includes up to 85 Pre-K classrooms affecting some 1,460 students which prompted an outcry from many who brought signs to the meeting.
"Students enrolled in state Pre-K gained an average of 82 percent higher on tests than their peers who did not attend Pre-K, this Tennessee Pre-K," said SCS Commissioner Tomeka Hart.
Rev. Kenneth Whalum pointed out the district is only legally obligated to fund grades K through 12. Also, he said that he supported Pre-K as he had a 15-month-old grandson.
"And in the best of times we have the money to educate pre-K, post 12 - these are not the best of times," said Whalum.
In fact, the district can only pay for Pre-K with federal grants, gifts, or donations. Which, like county tax money, is currently hard to come by.
Superintendent Hopson said they are working to find funds to possibly save more Pre-K classes. Meanwhile, the district's budget should be sent to the county commission for consideration next week.