Voters Question Pre-K Funding from Tax Increase

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(Memphis) Some people in Shelby County will be voting on a half-cent sales tax increase.

Groups have come out supporting the increase saying it will raise tens of millions of dollars and pay for universal Pre-K in Shelby County.

Shelby County commissioners say if the sales tax is approved they are required, by law, to spend thirty million dollars it generates on education with three million recommended to go to Pre-K in the first year.

But that's something the school board hasn't even agreed to.

Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland says three million dollars in the first year is barely enough to fund Pre K for five hundred children. 

That’s a far cry from universal Pre-K in Shelby County.

“They might not spend any on Pre-K,” said Strickland.

Strickland says the unified school board doesn’t even have a plan on how to spend the thirty million for education if the tax is approved, “These proponents of the sales tax are saying they are committed to universal Pre K which sounds really great. The problem is when you look at the details they aren’t committed to it and it's not universal."

“Something about that is fishy to me,” said voter Elise Flowers.

Flowers Wants to know where the money's going before she votes to approve the tax.

With early votes already being cast, many people have already missed an explanation.

“They need to enact guards to make sure it does. Then I will feel more comfort voting for it,” said Flowers.

School Board Member Kevin Woods said the school board passed a resolution supporting Pre-K and he believes the money will be spent that way.

But that resolution is not binding and it will ultimately be up to the board to decide how to spend the money within the school system.

Woods says he expects a stronger resolution supporting Pre-K to come out of a work session next Tuesday.