Prekindergarten Gets Big Financial Boost
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The precollegiate education spending figures do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Gov. Phil Bredesen’s push to expand Tennessee’s voluntary prekindergarten program won legislative approval in this year’s session, assuring that $20 million in new spending will be provided this school year to pay for 5,000 additional 4-year-olds.
The increased spending will bring the statewide participation rate in the program to nearly 14,000 children, according to the governor’s office. The prekindergarten program was one of several education initiatives that Gov. Bredesen pushed for during the 2006 legislative session.
Mr. Bredesen, a Democrat who is seeking re-election to a second term in November, signed a $23.6 billion budget that includes $95.2 million to fund the state’s K-12 basic education program. The fiscal 2007 state budget also includes $35 million—up from the $20 million that the governor originally proposed—in new spending for programs that serve English-language learners and low-income students, his office said.
Lawmakers also approved the governor’s $42 million proposal to raise teacher salaries—a 2 percent hike. In 2004, Tennessee teachers earned an average of $40,318, compared with the national average of $46,597. The increase will put Tennessee’s teacher salaries above the average for Southeastern states, Mr. Bredesen said.
Overall, the Tennessee legislature approved a $3.3 billion budget for K-12 education, up from $3.1 billion the previous year. Included in the spending plan is $1 million toward establishing a new public boarding school for high school students that focuses on mathematics and science.
Lawmakers also agreed to allocate more than $255 million for capital projects at the state’s colleges and universities.
Vol. 26, Issue 01, Page 34