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TN's Pre-Kindergarten Called "Major Success"

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November 15, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee has more than 900 state-funded pre-kindergarten classes currently serving about 18,000 pupils. Pre-K is still voluntary, and the program cost $83 million last year, with $58 million of that amount coming from the state.

Tennessee Education Association (TEA) Executive Director Al Mance says the program has proven to be effective in boosting early development, and also contributes to kids' progress years down the road.

"It does increase graduation rates. It increases rates of attendance at college, and there are so many long-term impacts - both economic and social - that it's almost impossible to calculate."

Mance says the money supporting the program is well spent and gives Tennessee families a top-quality early learning program. The state is ranked fifth in the country by a national group that evaluates state-funded pre-K programs.

"We think that the program more than pays for itself in the long term. It's not going to be like a business incentive, where you put a dollar in today and you expect to get two dollars out tomorrow."

Governor-elect Bill Haslam has praised pre-K as an effective means for improving pupil performance, although because of budget constraints, it's not likely the program will be expanded to include more children. Republican lawmakers have expressed more skepticism: they say in the state budget crisis, every program is on the table to be analyzed for cuts.

Randy O'Brien, Public News Service - TN