From left: Reps. DeBerry, Ragan, and White, and Senator Gresham
NASHVILLE —Three Memphis-area legislators are key members of an education-minded group that on Wednesday announced the formation of a new bipartisan, bicameral caucus focusing exclusively on early education policy — concentrating on pre-K through third grade — as a means of enhancing the state’s ongoing efforts to improve public education in Tennessee.
The three Shelby Countians are state Representatives Mark White and John DeBerry and state Senator Raumesh Akbari. A fourth co-founder, state Senator Dolores Gresham, hails from Somerville in Fayette County. Akbari and DeBerry are Democrats; the others are Republicans. White and Gresham are the chairs of the House and Senate education committees, respectively.
White and the others, joined by state Representative John Ragan (R, of Oak Ridge), Ron Gant (R-Rossville), and Dennis Powers (D-Jacksonville), unveiled their intentions at a press conference in the Cordell Hull Building.
The new caucus as yet has no specific agenda, White said, other than to gather as much information as possible on the strategies, new developments, and best practices of early education, from the best speakers and researchers available. He said the inspiration for forming the caucus came from DeBerry, a member of the House education caucus, who, in the face of studies showing that only 37 percent of Tennessee third-graders were reading at their grade level, opined, “We’ve got to go nuclear.”
The Early Education Caucus is open to all members of the House and Senate and will hold its first post-organizational meeting on Thursday of this week, following the week’s final floor sessions.