UPDATE: An MCS spokesperson has corrected an earlier release, saying the 82 pre-K classes cut include the classes cut due to school closures or schools becoming part of the state-run district.
(Memphis) The federal sequester has resulted in an $8 million cut to pre-kindergarten education in Shelby County, effectively eliminating the opportunity for 1,640 children.
Justin Potts, whose daughter was about to take advantage of a free pre-K program in the fall, now has to either pay out-of-pocket for private pre-K or sign her up for one of the remaining free classes, which are quickly filling up.
“It’s very last minute. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do, to be honest with you,” Potts said.
With two other children, he and his wife are already on a tight budget. So far, they have not been able to enroll their daughter into any nearby pre-K class offered through MCS.
“What would you do if you were in a situation, as of right now, your daughter doesn’t really have a school to go to?”
The cuts will eliminate 82 pre-K classrooms.
This reduces the number of pre-K spots in the combined district by about one third, down from the current 4,280 pre-K students served.
Among the 82 classrooms cut, 53 are at MCS campuses while 29 are community partner sites, which receive funding and teachers from MCS for pre-K.
There will be 132 classrooms left: 110 at schools in the merged district, and 22 at community partner sites (18 in conjunction with Head Start and 4 with community partners).
The four community partner sites will be in Cordova. An MCS spokesperson said that these sites are necessary because no space is available at district schools in the Cordova area.
At least one pre-K classroom will remain open at each of the MCS schools that currently offer pre-K.
None of the 14 pre-K classes offered at SCS campuses will be cut.
This free program most greatly benefits low-income families, who would otherwise be unable to afford a pre-K education.
Carolyn Harvey, director of the pre-K office for Memphis City Schools, said that participation in these classes increases high school graduation rates, TCAP scores and overall academic achievement.
Pre-K also decreases high school drop-out rates, delinquency and pregnancy.
The center Justin Potts’ daughter currently attends is Red Robin’s, one of the community partner sites.
Parents there currently pay for it as a private daycare, until their children turn 4 years old and can attend the free pre-K class funded by MCS.
Jennifer Walker-Young, whose daughter Madison is in the same class with Potts’ daughter, said she will have to make major adjustments to her budget.
“What we pay in child care, is really more than some people’s mortgage,” she said. She pays more than $6,000 a year.
With the free program going away, she will continue to pay that $6,000 next year as her daughter turns 4.
“Looks like I’m going to have to scotch tape and duct tape my vehicle a little while longer.”
Head Start, a separate pre-K program run through Shelby County, is also facing a $1.3 million cut due to the sequester.
While that amount would typically eliminate about 190 spots, they will be absorbing the cuts at the administrative level to avoid affecting the classrooms.
There is currently a wait list for Head Start, but because children are frequently leaving the program for kindergarten, parents of toddlers are still encouraged to apply.
They should call (901) 922-0700.
Parents who would like to apply for SCS pre-K can also enroll through the school district for limited spaces.