Mayor Announces Team To Start Work On City’s Pre-K Program

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Mayor A C Wharton is moving forward with his plans to fund pre-k classes in Memphis -- as long as taxpayers approve increasing the city sales tax at the polls in November.

This program would be separate from the county's Head Start.

In fact, the city would be getting back in the education business overseeing its operations.

"We know there are some unique needs in the city of Memphis," said Wharton.

Today, Wharton introduced the eight people he wants in charge of the city's still unfunded pre-k program.

They would make decisions on curriculum and when and where classes will be held.

"These are not paid commission, which is again is highly reflective of the folks serving," said Wharton.

It's up to taxpayers whether Wharton's pre-k plan becomes reality.

Memphians will vote in a special election in November to increase their sales tax by a half cent.

The city says it will generate $47 million a year --$30 million for pre-k education, the rest to help lower property taxes.

Pre-k would put the city back in the education business, a move that surprised county commissioners like Henri Brooks.

"I am just right now getting my arms around the city being in the education business. Consider the fix they are in right now in. Quite frankly, they may be able to pull it off, but I just assume the county should be responsible in all education matters," said Brooks.

Pre-k education is not a requirement in Tennessee, but Wharton said it's critical every child has access to it.

"We will work closely with the school system, so that we can make sure what we are teaching transitions smoothly," said Wharton.

The city council will have to approve Wharton's nominations and will elect one city council member to be on the Pre-K Commission.