Pre-K debate continues days before election - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Pre-K debate continues days before election

Posted: Updated:
If approved, a half-cent sales tax hike is expected to raise about $47 million. If approved, a half-cent sales tax hike is expected to raise about $47 million.
The pastor at First Baptist Broad, Reverend Keith Norman, now also sits at the head of the table of the commission. The pastor at First Baptist Broad, Reverend Keith Norman, now also sits at the head of the table of the commission.

(WMC-TV) - The Memphis Pre-K Commission will be in charge of the half-cent sales tax money for pre-K if it passes Thursday.

The pastor at First Baptist Broad, Reverend Keith Norman, now also sits at the head of the table of the commission.

"We are framing our work from the position of trustees, not as pre-K experts at this point," said Norman.

If approved, a half-cent sales tax hike is expected to raise about $47 million. Any excess will be used to reduce property taxes. Norman says the commission has only one intention.

"Our goal most certainly is to use as much of the funds available to us for quality pre-K," he said.

Sales tax proponent and councilman Shea Flinn says all ballot language guarantees all money raised from this tax will go to fund pre-K.

"The mayor has nominated a commission of people that have a tremendous record of success in the faith-based community, the private industry, to Shepard these dollars, to make sure they go where they're supposed to go and if they don't the citizens have the right to sue," said Flinn.

While Flinn backed the commission during a mid-day debate, opponent Kenneth Whalum says the fact that the commission is not elected only raises more questions.

"They'll be able to do whatever they want to do with the money. And the voters don't know how long they're going to be there. What's their term in office? What's their expertise in pre-K?" said Whalum.

Those will be a few details to be ironed out if the referendum passes. Norman says one constraint is the eight-member pre-K commission guarantees public tax dollars are not misspent.

"These trustees were put in place specifically to make sure that does not happen again in any way, shape, form, or fashion. No county commissioner, no city council person will have governance of these resources. They will be governed by the Pre-K commission," said Norman.

The Memphis Pre-K Commission handed out paperwork outlining its responsibilities and objectives, establishing rules, and short bios for all eight members. You can see that paperwork by clicking here.

Click here for an election guide including voting location and times.  

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

  • Do you think Memphis should increase its sales tax for pre-K?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Yes
    26%
    164 votes
    No
    70%
    452 votes
    Unsure
    4%
    28 votes
Powered by WorldNow