How you can help
With more than 75 percent of Tennessee school districts citing wait lists, there is an urgent need to expand Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K program. Join us in support of SB 2179 / HB 2201, which would use sports betting revenues to make this important program available to more Tennessee 4-year-olds whose parents choose for them to attend. SB 2179 / HB 2201 will give parents more choices and children more opportunity!
Here are two easy ways you can help.
- Send emails to educate your networks about the legislation and the need to contact their state policymakers. Supporters can contact their legislators and Governor Bill Lee in a few easy clicks.
- Post about the need for Pre-K expansion on your organizational social media platforms as well as your personal platforms. Encourage followers to join you in support of the legislation by contacting their policymakers.
Sample Facebook post:
It’s time to take action for our children and expand the Voluntary Pre-K program! Tennesseans across the state have spoken loudly in support of Pre-K, with wait lists cited in more than 75 percent of school districts. Plus, 87 percent of Tennessee voters across partisan lines support increased investments in the program. Now we need you to lend your voice to the cause as well! Email your state policymakers today. It only takes a few clicks to make a difference. https://p2a.co/YTgTN0N
Sample Twitter post:
It’s time to take action for our children and expand the Voluntary Pre-K program! Click to contact your state policymakers today and let them know you support increased investments in Pre-K.
- In 2019, the General Assembly passed the Tennessee Sports Gambling Act. Under this law, 80% of the revenues generated are deposited into the lottery for education account.
- According to the Act’s fiscal note, more than $40 million in proceeds will be generated each year and directed to the lottery for education account which is primarily dedicated to financial assistance for postsecondary opportunities.
- While post-secondary education is an extremely worthwhile investment, it would be wise for Tennessee to make investments “upstream” to early learning too – especially given the evidence on how important early learning is for future academic success.
- Sponsored by Sen. Ferrell Haile and Rep. Rebecca Alexander, as filed SB 2179 / HB 2201 would change the law and redirect the 80 percent portion of the sports gambling revenues to enable the Tennessee Department of Education to fund additional Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) classrooms.
- In early March, the bill was amended to redirect 40 percent of the sports gambling revenues to fund additional VPK classrooms (instead of 80 percent). The bill as amended is currently awaiting hearings in the Senate and House Finance, Ways and Means Committees.
Why investments in early education matter
- A strong early education foundation, from birth to third grade, is the key to academic achievement, workforce success and economic prosperity.
- Third grade proficiency in reading and math are critical benchmarks. With 68 percent of Tennessee third graders not proficient in reading or in math, it’s clear that Tennessee’s foundation is faltering. The quality of children’s learning prior to third grade requires significant attention and improvement – starting with Pre-K.
- Research shows that when children aren’t proficient in reading and math by third grade, they tend to stay or fall further behind, ultimately impacting their ability to succeed in higher education environments. They’re four times more likely to drop out of high school and 60 percent less likely to pursue a post-secondary degree.
- A recent study found that economically-disadvantaged children who attended the VPK program were significantly better prepared for kindergarten than those who did not attend. Moreover, those students who went on to effective schools for kindergarten through third grade significantly outperformed peers who did not attend VPK in third grade ELA/reading and math.
The need for more Pre-K now
- Voluntary Pre-K expansion is long overdue. It is a proven tool for academic success that hasn’t been meaningfully expanded in the number of classrooms funded or in the amount of funding per classroom in nearly 15 years.
- According to the Tennessee Department of Education, more than 75 percent of school districts have a combined waitlist of 5,400 eligible children for the VPK program. With 20 students per VPK classroom, 270 extra classrooms will be needed to provide an additional 5,400 seats across the state. Currently, only 22 percent of Tennessee 4-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded Pre-K programs.
- It’s what Tennesseans want. A recent voter poll conducted by Tennesseans for Quality Early Education shows that Tennessee Democrats and Republicans are unified in their support of expanding early education as a fundamental strategy to improve student achievement.
- Eighty-nine percent said they believe TN-VPK should be available to all Tennessee 4-year-olds, and 87 percent support increased state funding to make that possible.
- Eighty-eight percent support directing surplus lottery revenues to Pre-K.