Memphis City Council votes ‘yes’ to $16 million pre-K expansion in Shelby County

Memphis City Council votes ‘yes’ to $16 million pre-K expansion in Shelby County

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis City Council has voted “yes” to an ordinance that will expand pre-kindergarten in Shelby County.

Hours of negotiations and discussions between city and county leaders over the past year led to Tuesday’s discussion. If the proposal passes, it would double the number of pre-K seats available.

Last March, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and the Memphis City Council announced a $6 million contribution to move toward funding expanded needs-based pre-K. It’s the city’s first investment in education since the 2013 school merger.

SCS pre-K program requirements

The investment is critical, according to Strickland who notes that only 24 percent of third graders in Memphis read at a third-grade level.

“It’s the magic potion for a child’s success in life and they can pull themselves out of poverty with the gift of literacy,” said Strickland.

Strickland says if every third grader can read at a grade level, they have a 90-percent chance at graduating.

The joint ordinance between the city and county would provide $16.6 million for pre-K, saving 1,000 pre-K seats that already exist and creating an additional 1,000 seats by 2022, giving Shelby County a total of 8,500 pre-K seats.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris says the funding means free pre-K is available to every child who qualifies.

The county and city will select a fiscal agent to oversee and distribute the money for the pre-K agent. That agent will be selected at a later date after the city and county take their final votes.

Now that city councilors have approved the proposal, the Shelby County Commission is expected to take a final vote March 25. If commissioners give the OK, the next step is securing bids for a group to oversee and manage the system.

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