Pre K or Premature?

This afternoon the city council will take up several matters. They will hold a final reading on the referendum ordinance for a half percent city sales tax hike that will be on the ballot of a special election Sept.30.

Our leaders are already salivating at the extra revenue this would bring. They are expecting to net $47 million. They want to use $27 million for expanding pre K programs. Bill Dries reports in the Daily News that “The pre-kindergarten expansion would be outside the countywide school system through some kind of contract between the city and a provider. That provider could be the consolidated school system.

“Meanwhile, interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has called for a re-examination of pre-kindergarten capacity and locations because of some pre-K classes at some schools that are under capacity.”

With the schools already in a complicated mess, is this the time to be doing this? Supposedly this move will also be on the ballot for citizens to decide.

Someone present at these meetings had some questions and wonders if the program stands alone on its own merit on the ballot or will it be tied to a promise of no new property taxes if this passes? Would people be so gullible as to believe that a property tax would not go forward? Once a tax, always a tax. Remember the “short lived wheel tax” we are all still paying?

Would this expenditure be for one year? We already had funded Memphis City Schools to the tune of about $19,000 per student. When is it ever enough? My source tells me the premise is to spend $8,000 per year per child. Proponents contrast that with $40,000 a year for juvenile incarceration. Are they that sure of the wonders of Pre K that it will set kids right throughout the teenage years?

Maybe we should concentrate on getting the upper grades in order before proceeding. Once a program starts it doesn’t get removed. With the state of our city so precarious, is this the right time to do this?

A companion resolution is also off delay for Tuesday’s meeting. It would specify $27 million of the estimated $47 million in revenue from the sales tax hike would be used for an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs in Memphis. The other $20 million would be used to roll back the city property tax rate.

The 5-cent city property tax hike the council enacted last month has complicated the plan.

Some council members have said they believe Memphis voters are much less likely to approve a sales tax hike after a property tax hike even if it means shifting some of the revenue burden to the sales tax and off the property tax rate.

The pre-kindergarten expansion would be outside the countywide school system through some kind of contract between the city and a provider. That provider could be the consolidated school system.

Meanwhile, interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has called for a re-examination of pre-kindergarten capacity and locations because of some pre-K classes at some schools that are under capacity.

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