Wharton: pre-K now or "juvenile hall" or "baby" later - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Wharton: pre-K now or "juvenile hall" or "baby" later

(WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor AC Wharton toured churches Sunday to encourage people to vote "yes" for the half-cent sales tax hike to fund universal pre-K.

Mayor AC Wharton stood before the Golden Gate Cathedral congregation to tout the benefits of pre-K.

"If a half-cent increase is good enough for Bartlett, Germantown, Millington, isn't it good enough for the great city of Memphis, Tennessee," questioned Wharton.

The former defense attorney even mentioned the tragic death of contractor J.P. Shelley, shot by a Memphis 15-year-old who was supposed to be in school.

"I can't talk right about that particular young man. But, in the vast majority of cases that I personally handled, those academic failures started (at) pre-K," continued Wharton.

He said people will either vote to pay the half-cent sales tax increase in November or pay more later.

"Building a juvenile hall or taking care of an underweight baby born to 14-year-old," Wharton said.

On his way to three more churches, Wharton explained this is personal to him.

"My personal story, living in a segregated, inferior school system in which I just had to get out and dig and scratch and learn on my own," stated Wharton.

He mentioned it is hard to reverse what children learn.

"These kids are being hardwired so early. By the time they get to school, the circuitry is so welded in, even the teachers, with their best efforts, can't turn some of the deficiencies around," declared Wharton.

$30 million of the tax collected would expand pre-K to more than 5,000 students. The remaining $17 million collected would be used to lower Memphis property taxes.

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