State Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) released the following statement following news that the Republican leadership in the House was going to oppose a federally funded expansion of Pre-K in Tennessee:
"Even in these hyper-political times, yesterday’s announcement by House Republican Leaders that they planned to give up $64.3 million in federal tax dollars freely available to expand Pre-K came as a shock and a disappointment," said Rep. Stewart.
"Sadly, Tennessee Republicans appear to be taking the lead from their national leaders, like Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who have made a profession of putting their narrow political needs before the good of the nation as a whole. Here we have a program – Pre-K – that has bi-partisan support and that has proven to be highly effective. Here in Nashville, Vanderbilt’s Peabody Research Institute, working with the Tennessee Department of Education’s Division of Curriculum, recently conducted a 'rigorous, independent evaluation' of Pre-K in Tennessee. The key finding? '[T[he Tennessee Voluntary Prekindergarten program produces significant improvements in the academic skills generally regarded as important for school readiness compared to the gains made by comparable children who did not participate in the program.'
"At one time, Tennessee leaders, whether Republicans under Governors Lamar Alexander and Don Sundquist or Democrats under Democratic Governors Ned Ray McWherter and Phil Bredesen, would not have thought twice about putting good policy before politics and bringing these millions of dollars in to help our neediest school children. What a disappointment that the same radical spirit that has so undermined our government in Washington is now seeping into Tennessee politics.
"Those of us elected by Tennesseans should remember that these federal funds our citizens’ tax dollars at work. The money that we send to Washington can either be put to work in Tennessee or put to work in other states. Already this year we’ve seen the Republicans refuse billions of dollars in healthcare funding by refusing to expand Medicaid – a program that is already helping thousands of working families and seniors just over the border in Kentucky. Now they give up millions that would allow over seven thousand Tennessee kids a better start in life. Apparently, handing out our citizens’ money to other states is the New Math among Tennessee Republicans. It doesn’t add up - unless you care more about your radical base than about doing what’s right for Tennessee school children and working families."