Memphis, Nashville get $35M each in federal funding for pre-k expansion

Tennessee is one of 18 states that will split $226 million in federal funds for pre-K expansion, reports the Commercial Appeal. An additional $330 million in private donations will be announced at a White House Summit on Early Education Wednesday.

Last October, Tennessee applied for $70 million in a joint application that would fund additional classrooms in Memphis and Nashville. The award means up to $35 million over four years will flow to Shelby County where it will be used in classrooms managed by Shelby County Schools, Bartlett and Millington municipal systems, the Achievement School District and private preschools.

Metro Nashville Public Schools will receive an equal amount.

“I’m thrilled. This was a team effort, and I couldn’t be prouder of our community,” said Barbara Prescott, head of education efforts with PeopleFirst here and a longtime advocate for pre-K in Memphis where in three years, voters twice defeated tax referendums to fund universal prekindergarten.

The funding will allow school districts and high-quality community providers to add 1,000 new seats, starting with 660 next fall. Currently, state and federal sources provide 4,422 children in Shelby County with pre-K.

The grant will also add health screening and parenting programs in 32 other classrooms. With the investment, 100 percent of state-funded classrooms in the county will meet the definition of high-quality programs.

…Tennessee is one of 13 states receiving funds to expand programs. The others are: Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York and Virginia. Five other states that serve fewer than 10 percent of 4-year-olds received funding to develop programs. They are: Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana and Nevada.

A total of 36 states applied. The awards were announced by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan late Tuesday.

“In 2014, the U.S. ranked 28th among industrialized nations in preschool access,” he said. “That is not a badge of honor. As a nation, we should be ashamed.”