Tennessee Pre-K Earns National Recognition, Increases Access

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | 7:00pm

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program has received high marks in the National Institute for Early Education Research’s (NIEER) annual report, ranking in the top half of states for both the percentage of children enrolled and funding.

Tennessee’s Pre-K program met nine out of 10 quality standards benchmarks in the report, The State of Preschool 2008. The state increased enrollment of 4-year-olds to 21 percent, and the $4,465 in per-child state spending earned the state a 13th place ranking on resources.

“Quality Pre-K classrooms are one of the best investments we can make in the education of children in Tennessee,” Governor Bredesen said. “Even in difficult budget times we have been able to maintain our support for these classes and, as this report shows, it’s paying off.”

Nationally, the annual survey of state-funded preschool programs showed impressive expansion in enrollment and spending. However, it cautioned that the recession may reverse the trend, curtailing early education opportunities for children in lower and middle income families. Governor Bredesen has again this year committed to funding Tennessee’s Pre-K program at levels comparable to last year.

Tennessee Pre-K Facts:

  • Tennessee Pre-K received a $3 million increase in the FY09 state budget for inflationary costs
  • Funding in FY 09 is $83 million ($58 million state and $25 million lottery)
  • Tennessee has 934 state-funded pre-k classes that serve approximately 18,000 children

“This report supports our work in building a strong Pre-K program,” Education Commissioner Timothy Webb said. “This is an investment we will see returned in the future as these children graduate and move on to college or the workforce.”

To see Tennessee’s state profile online, please visit http://nieer.org/yearbook/pdf/TN.pdf. For information on Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K program, please visit http://tn.gov/education/prek/index.shtml.

For more information, contact Rachel Woods at (615) 253-1960 or Rachel.Woods@tn.gov. 

 Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K Program – 2008-2009

Governor Phil Bredesen, with strong bipartisan support from the Tennessee General Assembly,                     was successful in the passing of the Voluntary Pre-K for Tennessee Act of 2005, increasing the state’s investment in Early Childhood Education and access for students.

  •  TN Pre-K received a $3 million increase in the FY 09 state budget for inflationary costs
  •  TN Pre-K funding in FY ’09 is $83 million.   [$58 million state & $25 million lottery]
  •  TN has 934 state-funded pre-k classes that serve approximately 18,000 young children
  •  TN state-supported Pre-K programs are located in:
      • 94 of 95 counties
      • 133 of 135 school systems (TN has 136 school systems, only 135 are eligible to offer Pre-K. One school system provides services only to the special school districts in the county.)
  • Governor Bredesen, with the support of the TN General Assembly, has provided $213 million new dollars for Pre-K education since the 2005-2006 school year, which created 786 new classrooms serving an additional 15,000 preschoolers across Tennessee.
  •   Growth of Pre-K 2004 to 2008:

Year                  # Pre-K Classrooms    # Students Served

2008                     934                                       18,000+
2007                     934                                       18,133
2006                     677                                        13,197
2005                     448                                        9,000
2004                     148                                        3,000 pilot

  • The Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K program is recognized as a national leader in Pre-K quality, achieving 9 out of 10 quality standard benchmarks of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), for the past three years. Only two states achieved 10 quality standard benchmarks.
  • Pre[k]now ranked Tennessee 5th in the nation on a new ranking of “best chance” states for parents seeking a high-quality, state-funded pre-k program for their child, according to "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2009.
  • Tennessee is one of five states in the nation to receive a grant to partner with the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning to build the capacity of the state to increase the social and behavioral competence of young children.
  • Collaborative classroom partnerships are an integral component of the TN Pre-K program. In 2007-2008 there were 212 collaborative classroom partnerships between 40 local school systems and non-profit and for profit providers such as; Head Start , Even Start, For-Profit and Not-For-Profit Child Care Providers, Faith Based Agencies, Community Based Agencies, and Higher Education Institutions. 
  • United Way of Tennessee provides local matching funds of nearly $1 million for 46 Pre-K classrooms throughout the state.
  • Tennessee recognizes the importance of a highly trained staff by requiring a licensed teacher with Pre-K certification and a teacher assistant with early childhood experience and either a CDA, or working towards a CDA certification.
  • VPK has one of six full-day programs across the country requiring a minimum instructional day of 5½ hours per day, five days per week.