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Policy Development

Our Early Education Priorities


Engaged & Empowered Parents


Quality & Affordable Child Care


Excellent Early Grades Teaching


Strong Accountability Systems

Our Policy Development Process

TQEE is Tennessee’s go-to source for sound early education policy proposals anchored in the four core priorities above. Developing those proposals is an involved process that requires a lot of inputs, and four key considerations.

What Works.

First and foremost we start with what works. The field of early education is chock full of research and evidence on practices that lead to effective early learning outcomes. We gather new information through regular research, through our national network of state early education advocates, and especially through our Tennessee-based policy advisors (see list below).

What’s Cost Effective.

One of the things we love about early education is the huge body of research demonstrating the strong return on investment for high quality early education. But we also dig into the specific program and practices, and we champion new research that helps us better understand program effectiveness and cost-effectiveness here in Tennessee. We also actively look for opportunities for our state to use existing resources more effectively.

What Tennesseans Want.

Tennessee voters overwhelmingly support our early education priorities and policy proposals; but we don’t take that for granted. We conduct a public opinion survey across the state each and every year to make sure our policy priorities are aligned with values and opinions of Tennesseans.

What State Government Leaders are Prioritizing.

We recognize and appreciate that there are many priorities for state government. That’s why we give special attention to aligning our legislative initiatives to other priorities which have momentum and where there exists a natural fit. For example, in response to Governor Lee’s executive order for government departments to give special attention to rural distressed communities, we proposed the first PreK expansion in over a decade begin in rural distressed communities.

Our Policy Advisors


Deborah Abel

Program Manager
Healthier Beginnings Program at the University of Tennessee, Martin

Sandra Allen

Director LeBonheur Community Health and Well-Being and member of the Early Success Coalition

Tequilla Brownie

Executive Vice President
Tennessee New Teacher Project

Holly Coleman

Program Director for High-Quality Education
Hyde Family Foundations

Carol Johnson

Interim President
Lemoyn Owen College

Dr. Mindy Kronenberg

Private Practice Clinician working with children & families. Board member for Association of Infant Mental Health in TN

Sean Lee

Porter Leath, Memphis

Chloe Moore

Director, NextMemphis
Porter Leath, Memphis

Bob Nardo

Founding Head
Libertas School of Memphis

Barbara Nixon

Founding Board Chair and consultant
ACE Awareness Foundation Memphis

Mary Palmer

Southwest Tennessee Community College

Beverly Robertson

President & CEO
Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce

Dr. Kenneth Robinson

President and Chief Executive Officer
United Way of the Mid-South

Dr. Loretta Rudd

Clinical Associate Professor in Child Development. U of Memphis and First Lady of U of Memphis

Hayley Simmons

Policy Director
Seeding Success

Teresa Sloyan

Executive Director
Hyde Family Foundation

Kyle Spurgeon

Chief Executive Officer
Jackson Chamber of Commerce

Dr. Altha Stewart

Assoc. Professor of Psychiatry & Director, Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth
UT Health Science Center

Mark Sturgis

Executive Director
Seeding Success

Sharon Waterfield

University of Tennessee, Martin Child and Family Grant Program

Carrie Whaley

Professor of Education
Union University School of Education


Joyce Bridges

Chief Officer for Statewide Initiatives
Child Care Resource and Referral Agency

Connie Casha

Director of Early Childhood Programs

Dr. Caroline Christopher

Research Assistant Professor
Peabody Research Institute, Vanderbilt University

Katie Cour

President & CEO
Nashville Public Education Foundation

Jennifer Drake-Croft

Director of Early Childhood Well-Being
Tennessee Commission on Children & Youth

Dana Eckman

Principal, Ivanetta H. Davis Early Learning Center
Metro Nashville Public Schools

Dr. Dale Farran

Retired Professor
Former Senior Associate Director, Peabody Research Institute, Vanderbilt University

Diane Halstead

Regional Director for Tennessee

Mary Louise Hemmeter

Professor. Dept. of Special Educ., Vanderbilt Univ. & Co-Faculty Director, Susan Gray School for Children

Jennifer Hill

Policy and Programming Director
Nashville Public Education Foundation

Dean Hoskins

Vice President
Books from Birth Foundation

Dr. Martha Howard

Assistant Professor
Curriculum & Instruction, Early Childhood, Tennessee Tech University

Sumita Keller

Director of Home Visiting Alliance of Tennessee
TN Commission on Children & Youth

Richard Kennedy

Executive Director
Tennessee Commission on Children & Youth

Cindy Ligon

McKendree Child Care Center (and President of TACEE)

Mary Cypress Metz

Vice President of Strategy
State Collaborative on Reforming Education

Phyllis Phillips

Director of PreK Programs
Metro Nashville Public Schools

Joyce Bridges

Chief Officer for Statewide Initiatives
Child Care Resource and Referral Agency

Kristen Davis

Executive Director
Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee

Gina Tek

Childcare Services Coordinator
Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

Lin Venable

Director of Statewide Programs
Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance

Kinika Young

Director of Children’s Health
Tennessee Justice Center


Phil Acord

Board Chairman
Chambliss Center for Children, Chattanooga

Jennifer Andrews

Director of Programs
Chattanooga 2.0

Lora Barnett

Director of Workforce Development
Kingsport Chamber of Commerce

Jared Bigham

Senior Advisor on Workforce and Rural Initiatives
Tennessee Chamber of Commerce

Kristin Bradley

Early Intervention Services Coordinator Helen, Ross, McNabb Center, Knoxville. BOD Association for Infant Mental Health in TN

Michelle Davis

Learning Rx, Chattanooga

Dr. Amy Doran

Director of Early Childhood Education
Kingsport City Schools

Dr. Kathy Fitzgerald

Clinical Asst. Professor, Early Learning Center Practicum Coordinator. U of TN, Knoxville, Dept. of Child & Family Studies

Ariel Ford

Director. Office of Early Childhood
Office of Mayor Andy Berke, Chattanooga

Corrine Hill

Executive Director
Chattanooga Public Library

Melody Hobbs

Pre-K Supervisor
Lenoir City Schools

Shannon Jackson

Executive Director
Curriculum & Instruction, Knox County Schools

Maeghan Jones

Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga

Dr. Bob Kronick

Professor of Counseling and Education and Director of University-Assisted Community Schools, U of TN, Knoxville

Beth Lackey

Early Childhood Supervisor
Knox County Schools

Lisa Light

Gap Creek Elementary, Knox County Schools

Phil Acord

Board Chairman
Chambliss Center for Children, Chattanooga

Susan Lodal

Former Board Chair
Kingsport City Schools Board of Directors

Sarah Morgan

Chief Executive Officer
Benwood Foundation

Dr. Michelle Moser

Associate Professor
ETSU Dept. of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences & Child/Family Psychologist

Phyllis Nichols

President & CEO
Knoxville Urban League

Beth Rhinehart

Bristol Chamber of Commerce

Lottie Ryans

Workforce & Literacy Initiatives, First Development District

Henry Shulson

Executive Director
Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga

Angela Webster

Executive Director
Association of Infant Mental Health in TN

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