Pre-K Again

The budget process for Loudon County government and the Loudon County Board of Education is underway again. Mayor Estelle Herron has asked the school board to try to have our budget ready by some time in April. That may not happen but we're working on it now.

Once again this year, I have proposed eliminating the volunteer Pre-K program. We've covered the pros and cons many times and the studies still show that there are no long term positive effects for children who attend Pre-K. Not my facts but the State of Tennessee's facts.

One real common misconception/misinformation that has been put out there about my position is that I just don't think the Pre-K children actually learn anything. I have no doubt that those kids who attend Pre-K do learn something. The teachers have told me as much. Recently a Pre-K teacher addressed the school board to plead her case to continue the program. Among other things, she told the board her students learned to use scissors. Another Pre-K teacher told me her students learned to walk in a straight line. Yet another was excited to tell me how her students knew how to get their mats out for nap time. There's no doubt they learn stuff. But is it worth nearly a million dollars a year for 165 or so Pre-K students?

My problem with Pre-K is threefold. First is a philosophical problem with cradle to grave government. Second and most importantly is the space limitations in our schools. Pre-K has displaced older students to the detached trailers at our elementary schools. Thirdly is the costs. One of the first statements on the states web site pertaining to Pre-K is that a school system should not begin a Pre-K program unless it has the space and funding to support it. There are other options. By law the school board can partner with private entities to manage the Pre-K program.  

The state comptroller commissioned an ongoing study of Pre-K that has been going for several years now. The study has reported the same findings every year. No long term benefits. So those who support the program, many who draw a paycheck from the program, claim the study is "flawed." This is a common reaction to anything that doesn't tow the public education line. A few years ago when the feasibility study was done on the Greenback school, the results weren't what administrators and some board members wanted to hear. So the study was "flawed." In 2005 when the PBA study was done on the school system's needs and enrollment projections, it didn't fit the mold of what administrators and some board members wanted so the study was "flawed." See a pattern yet?

While I know a number of other board members have major concerns with the Pre-K program, I doubt seriously that a majority of the board will have the political willpower to finally end this overpriced program. But for me, it simply comes down to priorities. We can't afford everything.