Pre-K Sales Tax Fails

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(Memphis)  The so-called pre-k tax referendum failed, with 60.20 percent of voters against the half-cent sales tax increase.

If it had passed, the tax rate would have become 9.75 percent, the highest in the state.

The city says the goal of the half-cent tax was to raise at least $47 million for pre-k education and to lower property tax rates in Memphis.

"I'm unbelievably disappointed. I think Memphis needs drastic improvement and the voters appear to be saying right now, the status quo is fine," said Councilman Jim Strickland, who has been a staunch supporter of the sales tax hike.

"I think we ran as good of a campaign as we possibly can," he said. "Overall it was a fantastic campaign. People just didn't want to raise taxes."

The campaign had big money, plus backing from the city council, mayor, and Chamber of Commerce.

But it was defeated, by opponents with no budget at all.

"When you're up against the kind of financial resources we were up against, you know that if you're going to win its because your cause is just," opponent and former school board member Kenneth Whalum said.

There was no elaborate campaign party for Whalum -- he just watched the numbers come in while sitting with his wife on the couch.

"They wanted to raise the sales tax a half a cent on the poor and we had about a half cent to buy advertising," he said. "We had no budget at all, but looks like the people really stood up and thats a great thing."

And while supporters say this fight is over for now, Whalum says his next fight is just beginning.

"I made a promise to my Twitter followers that i would help them fire, retire, and replace ineffective politicians, and I mean it," he said.

When asked if he planned on coming up with a way to fund pre-k, Whalum said that there are already lots of good pre-k programs in place.

If voters had approved the tax increase, Pastor Keith Norman would have been the co-chair of the commission implementing the program.

“We want a better Memphis for the future. We want to see opportunities for kids to have pre-k education to help them to read at the proper level by third grade and help them excel their senior year in high school and go on to college,” Norman told News Channel 3 earlier this month.

District 91 voters also chose late State Representative Lois DeBerry's successor.

Raumesh Akbari received 88.91 percent of the votes, while opponent James "Jim" Tomasik received 10.63 percent (0.46 percent of the votes were for write-in candidates).

Lois DeBerry

DeBerry died July 28th at the age of 68 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was surrounded by family and friends.

Her career in the legislature was one for the history books.

The south Memphis democrat was elected in 1972. She was re-elected an astounding 20 straight times.

Colleagues respectfully referred to DeBerry as ‘The Mom’ of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Deberry was the longest-serving member of the Tennessee State House of Representatives and the second African-American woman to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly.

She also served as speaker pro tem in the house, and leaders on both sides sought her support pushing through key legislation.


  • angie

    You want to add a half-cent increase to people who don’t have children in school? Isn’t that greedy to make someone pay for something they don’t use?

  • Tammy Fulinara

    I am an educator. A pre-k educator. I didn’t want taxes to go up either. However, I have seen first hand what education provides for children without academic and social support. The earlier a child is provided with intervention, they have better chances of success in academics and society.
    I would like to urge our politicians not to give up. I am a true Memphian and I love and believe in in our city. However, there are people that truly dislike our city. They work, shop, and drive in our city. I propose that people who reap success in our magnificent city start to pay the price. I recommend a toll for non- citizens working, shopping and driving in our city. I believe a toll would provide us with the funds needed to educate our innocent children.
    A Concerned Citizen, Parent, and Educator

    • T. P. Artyer

      Why should we pay for other people’s children to go to school!?!? that’s socialesm!!!!! Schools should be privatized. If parents can’t pay for their children to go to school, too bad. They go without.

      • Telco

        This has got to be the most ignorant reply anyone could ever come up with privatize schools and if the parents can’t pay they go without. How big of an idiot are you? I mean are you really that stupid/ignorant. You need not ever comment on anything again becuse you are about as smart as a box of rocks

      • Byteme

        “Socialesm”, “privatize”, and “They go without”. This is a perfect and obvious example of the lack of pre-kindergarten or any additional education.
        I’m being rude aren’t I, or should I say ain’t I.

      • Todd

        Your comment is so ridiculous it’s almost funny. I am amazed that a single human being exists that could actually form this thought. It’s highly possible that you would have benefited from a Pre-K program.

    • truth matters

      Your recommendation would further remove the financial/personal responsibility from the parents who created these children and shift it to those who are responsible. It is that type of ideology that hinders progress. What values of personal/financial responsibility would you as an educator be able to instill in the children if they are perpetually being “bailed” out by someone else. This only continues the idea that they can have as many children they want because they don’t have to worry about raising them. It will, to them, be seen as someone else’s job. This attitude is endemic in our nation; and is leading to it’s demise. Thank you for doing your part.

    • Nonya Bidness

      I can see from your grammar why the students need another teacher, to get them away from you! The city of Memphis has been throwing buckets of money at education and what has it gotten them? Why one of the worst school systems in the country.

      I would love to see the city tax rate go up more, it reminds people in the suburban cities (you know, the nice places to live) to spend their money at home.

  • T. P. Artyer

    Right on, Angie. I’ve never had my home broken not or on fire, so why am I paying for police and fire protection?? Socialesm, that’s why!!!

  • 1midtownmike

    Too much tomfoolery and shenanigans for taxpayers who are already footing the bill……a tax increase would not benefit the children.

    It would only benefit those who proposed the increase.

    Sad, but hey man, fool me once……….

  • Slew66

    I don’t think it is Socialism to help pay for fire and police or even schools. I think the misappropriations of the Wheel Tax and the Lotto money should be a concern first. What happened to that money. I think some of you are throwing around the word Socialism and don’t know what it truly means…..I think and bet you all are GOP/Tea Party Supporters.

  • MikeHall

    As defined Socialism is a Social democracy is a political ideology that officially has as its goal the establishment of democratic socialism through reformist and gradualist methods. Alternatively, Social democracy is defined as a policy regime involving a welfare state, collective bargaining schemes, and support for publicly financed public services, which fits the description of Memphis. 

    I would also like to add that the voters of Memphis have made life terrible for themselves by continuing to vote for incompetent or crooked politicians…. 

    Use the chart below (linked) and compare Memphis TN to 1980 (and 1990) to present and see the poverty rate double because only Democrats are voted in. You do it to yourselves because all you can see is color…. The majority of Memphis is racist. So, you get what you deserve in my opinion. Memphis is dying of cancer. It is only a matter of time.,1990,2010,9,35.092945313732635,-89.81185913085938

  • James Bolen

    Sigh. Why are people so intent on isolating themselves? This tax increase would have meant that you would pay an extra .25 cents on a purchase of 50 dollars. That’s nothing. Early intervention of at risk youth is the best thing that we can do for the future of this city. You might not have children in school, but by funding pre-k you are providing a future for a young child, helping to break a cycle of poverty, and you might just be saving your own life as you are offering a young child a different path. Stop being ignorant.

  • Cheryl Marty

    Mr Strickland, It is NOT that we want the Status Quo, Please don’t treat us as Stupid. IT failed because We don’t trust this City to run it’s self let alone a program like this, Beal street landing, retirement, parks instead of Police, Malls, with questionable management , 1200.00 a month lease for AC, and it goes on and on.. That is the Stasus Quo We are ready to Get rid of. Then maybe we can solve some real problems in this City

    • Thomas H. Evans

      Great comment! Mr. Strickland must realize by now that “We the People” simply don’t TRUST our leaders to do what they say with “OUR MONEY.” I don’t know if this will hinder his attempt to run for Mayor, but too many unanswered questions in this plan/proposal for us to bite this time. I don’t believe anybody who voted against this tax is against educating our children, but questions if it would be the children who would benefit from it.

  • David

    Where does taxing stop? When will we realize the word “cut”; I have to do it in my budget at home; do I go in to tell the boss I got to have an increase because my spending is going up? We had 1st grade when I grew up; later ‘they’ added ‘k’; now ‘they’ want to add ‘pre-k’; what year will it be that we take the infants 6 months after birth so ‘we’ can teach them? There are too many children being born where there is one parent, or in some cases, only grandparents; these single parents can’t afford the care they need; that’s where our real problem lies; lets quit ‘patching’ the sores and dig into the real source. I’m sorry but I feel the ‘pre-k’ program would end up as a big-o-babysitter!!!! Glad the vote ended the way it should; am I a REPUBLICAN? NO

    • langor1

      I’m in total agreement David. Government must understand that they can only tax so much and THEY must work within those parameters regardless of the self proclaimed “good” it will do. I am independent.

  • Jack

    If the parents would take ownership of their children and become invested in their success, then this Pre-K debate would become moot. Shifting the responsibility onto others for your child’s success is fatally flawed. Ask ANY teacher what is the limiting factor in a child learning. It is NOT a lack of Pre-K, but rather the parents.

  • Rick

    I am not opposed to education; I have been in the education arena for over 30 years. Yes we would do well educating pre K children. That would be a huge thing.
    What I am opposed to is giving an entity funds that just 2 years ago proved to me they are not capable of handling, and do not want the responsibility of taking care of the educational process. Just a few short months ago Memphis gave up their charter to the county school system. Now they want to get involved with education again? Why? So they have another money pot to steal funds from. Well what about the court settlement of the many millions of dollars Memphis is to pay the county school system. It is obvious to anyone paying attention that Memphis fathers are not capable of handling funds. Examples are endless. Pyramid, is a good example. Pinn. Airlines, was given huge tax exemptions and an office for what? Nice try but STRIKE! There are more examples…
    What really needs done is for the voters to wake up and look around objectively and clean house. This is neither a political nor a race thing. It is a competency thing. Get responsible people in the council and watch this town grow once again.
    What I see is that parents want the schools to take on responsibilities that should be the parents. Things such as respect, morals, honor, responsibility, and the list go on. Parents want the schools to raise their children without disciplining them, nor teach them the basic rules of life.
    We have a long way to go to get back on track.

    • Hard Truths

      A lot of people have learned, from hard experience, NOT to trust our local political leadership.

      Trust has been broken, violated by those looters, er, leaders.

      What you see is the aftermath of a crooked, grandiose, drugged-out bull in the china shop for the past 18 years — to say nothing of all the other crooks, both black and white.

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