County Poised to Invest Record Amount in Pre-K


A pre-k class at Porter Leath - PORTER LEATH
  • Porter Leath
  • A pre-k class at Porter Leath

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris’ 2020 budget proposal will include the largest investment in pre-K in county history, according to officials.

Harris announced Tuesday that the budget allocates $6 million for pre-K and early childhood education.

The mayor will present his full proposed budget to the Shelby County Commission on April 29th.

If approved, $5.5 million will go toward pre-K classrooms and the remaining $500,000 will be allocated to the Porter-Leath organization for Early Head Start, a program that helps families care for their infants and toddlers through comprehensive services. Porter-Leath will use that investment to leverage more than $4 million in additional resources, officials said.

The mayor’s budget is also expected to identify a dedicated funding source for early childhood education.

“If funding is approved, we have a chance to increase literacy, the likelihood of high school graduation, and, further down the road, employability,” Harris said. “We have a chance to ignite a boom in community benefit.”

This comes as an $8 million grant that has funded 1,000 students since 2014 is set to run out in June. The county and city plan to invest $16.6 in pre-K by 2022, which should fund those 1,000 seats plus an additional 1,000 more.

The city began looking at funding county-wide pre-K last year, putting $3 million of excess city revenues as seed money into a dedicated fund. Additionally, a portion of city property tax revenue and taxes paid by companies whose PILOT (pay-in-lieu-of-taxes) incentive has expired began going to the fund.

The Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission both voted in March to select a fiscal agent that will manage and raise additional dollars for the pre-K fund. The fiscal agent will also be tasked with creating high-quality pre-K classrooms.

The city and county have not yet announced who the fiscal agent will be. 

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