Boost to pre-K funding could come at expense of tourists

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A major boost to early childhood education could come for Memphis residents at the expense of tourists.

City Council member said they will start presenting and discussing a plan to increase pre-K funding as early as Tuesday.

"Investing in our children is preparing for our future; it's creating a more stable community," Mark Sturgis with Seeding Success said. "High-quality child care, high-quality education programs are critical for our kids but it's also a way to support an effective and happy workforce."

As with any increase in spending, lawmakers are trying to figure out how to pay for the proposed service. One idea is increasing the tax on hotels and motels.

Sturgis said he completely supports the idea of charging tourists a little extra and using that money to help improve Memphis and Shelby County.

"We think this is a win-win. Obviously, a tax is always going to burden someone, but what we know about this tax is that it's a tax on folks coming to Memphis and Shelby County and it's something that we think is a really important investment for the city to make," Sturgis said.

By 2019, Shelby County will lose $8 million in federal funding for pre-K programs. That funding loss could cause more than 1,000 children to be left behind.

Councilman Kemp Conrad is one of the people pushing the issue and working to find more funding for pre-K education.

"It's proven that investing in early childhood education provides the best long-term return on investment as it relates to reducing crime, reducing poverty, and accelerating prosperity," Conrad said. "As we enter into the MLK 50th year, the time is now to invest in the opportunity."

Meanwhile, hotel industry representatives said they are not fans of this tax plan. They said it could lead to industry revenue drops which could mean layoffs.

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