State of the States
Prekindergarten Program a Priority for Bredesen
Tennessee could soon receive a long-awaited universal pre-K program, new teacher-training programs, and more money for elementary and secondary education, at the expense of its health-care fund for low-income residents.
Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, presented his $11.2 billion state budget proposal for fiscal 2006 during his State of the State Address on Jan. 31.
The $4 billion K-12 budget includes an $87 million increase for the state’s basic education program, which uses enrollment and other factors to determine per-pupil funding.
The budget plan also adds $25 million to expand the state’s prekindergarten and early-childhood programs, mainly for poor children, and $5 million for a professional-development academy for teachers. It would give teachers and other state employees a 1 percent pay raise and a 1 percent bonus. Gov. Bredesen pledged that more money would be added to the pre-K programs until every 4-year-old has access to classes.
The governor has called for scaling back the state’s TennCare program, which provides health insurance for low-income residents, to pay for the education programs. ("Tennessee Governor Seeks Pre-K," Jan. 5, 2005.)
Mr. Bredesen said that TennCare has taken all of the state’s new revenues in recent years, shortchanging education and other priorities. “We are re- establishing our fiscal priorities in this budget,” he said. “For the first time in a long time, we’re balancing TennCare with all the critical needs of our state, including education.”
Vol. 24, Issue 22, Page 20