Survey Shows High Local Demand for Pre-K Classrooms
Nashville, TN – Tennessee school districts are prepared to operate 337 new state-funded pre-K classrooms in the 2007-08 school year serving 6,740 additional four-year olds in at-risk and universal classrooms, according to a survey released today by the Tennessee Department of Education. The survey polled the leaders of each of Tennessee’s school systems on how many pre-K classrooms they would like to open next year. More than 75 percent of districts plan to request at least one new classroom.
“If local educators have the demand for additional pre-K classrooms, we want to make every effort to help provide the resources to serve the additional students,” Governor Phil Bredesen said. “We knew we had not satisfied all of the existing need. This survey’s results simply help us quantify what a reasonable next step should be.”
Seven school systems — Bedford County, Tullahoma City, Giles County, Marshall County, Moore County, Sequatchie County and Trousdale County — intend to request state pre-K funding for the first time. With these recent commitments of intent, Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K for All program could have a presence in all but three Tennessee’s 136 school systems.
“I’m thrilled that Tennessee’s school systems are ready to serve so many more pre-K students,” Education Commissioner Lana Seivers said. “Each child who experiences the foundation of a quality pre-K education like that in Tennessee is a child better prepared to succeed in school.”
Under Governor Bredesen, the state has invested an additional $80 million to fund 529 new pre-K classrooms in the last two years. Tennessee’s Pre-K for All program is ranked high nationally in quality by the National Institute for Early Education Research and is held as a model state by the national advocacy organization pre-K Now.
Hallmarks of the program include:
o a low staff to child ratio of 1:10 with one teacher and one teaching assistant per 20-student class
o lead teachers must have a bachelor’s degree and special training in early childhood education
o comprehensive curriculum approved by the State Board of Education
o staff must participate in 18 hours of professional development annually
School districts further reported 1,561 students still on pre-K waiting lists this year. Each year, more than 76,000 students enroll in Kindergarten in a Tennessee public school yet fewer than 22,000 are currently served in either a state or federal pre-K program.
“This commitment will come as good news to the countless parents who contacted the state expressing a desire for their child to participate in Tennessee’s pre-K program,” Executive Director of Tennessee’s Office of Early Learning Bobbi Lussier said. “As a former elementary school principal, I know the positive difference these additional classrooms could make in the lives Tennessee students waiting to be served.”
For more information, contact Rachel Woods at (615) 253-1960 or Rachel.Woods@state.tn.us.