Home Health & Education Sen. Oliver, Rep. Behn announce bill to make preschool free for every 4-year-old

Sen. Oliver, Rep. Behn announce bill to make preschool free for every 4-year-old

by PRIDE Newsdesk
Universal pre-K bill supports student achievement, and reduces costs for working families, lawmakers say.

Legislation by Sen. Charlane Oliver, D-Nashville, and Rep. Aftyn Behn, D-Nashville, would make pre-kindergarten free and accessible for all four-year-olds statewide. The lawmakers say access to high-quality early education should be a right for every Tennessee family, not just a privilege for the rich.

“Every child deserves access to high-quality early education,” said Sen. Oliver, a working mother of three children. “Universal pre-K is a smart investment in kids that results in better education, health and financial outcomes well into adulthood. It’s also a strategic decision to empower working parents, who can work more hours if they choose and keep a peace of mind that their child is getting a great start in life.”

Rep. Aftyn Behn says access to quality preschool is a critical priority for working and middle class families in Tennessee.

“It can’t be overstated how big of a deal it would be for all working families to have access to free, high-quality early education in their community,” Behn said. “Our universal pre-K legislation recognizes the challenge facing our families and takes a huge step toward ensuring that every child in Tennessee, regardless of income, has the opportunity to get a head start in school. That’s how we set the stage for Tennessee’s future success.”

The Volunteer State recently ranked 44th in the nation for preschool participation. The state’s low participation rates are due partly to the limited nature of Tennessee’s existing pre-kindergarten program, which only provides funding for at-risk four-year-olds.

Local school districts have the option to participate, and most do, but offerings vary from district to district.

Oliver and Behn say the limited capacity of the program has left many families without access to these crucial services.

House Bill 2234 and Senate Bill 2065 are designed to address the pressing needs of working parents who are struggling to find affordable, high-quality early education programs.

Under the bill, every school district would be required to establish a pre-kindergarten program, 100% state funded, that is available to all four-year-olds in the community. Enrollment would remain optional for parents.

This landmark legislation represents a significant commitment to prioritize the education and well-being of Tennessee’s children—all without raising taxes on working and middle class families.

One ground-breaking aspect of this legislation lies in its funding mechanism. The bill pays for free, universal pre-K by introducing a new privilege tax on social media and big tech companies that profit from the personal data of Tennesseans.

Under the bill, a 9.5% privilege tax (equivalent to the average state and local sales tax rate) would be applied on big tech companies that report more than $50 million of annual income from digital advertising targeted to people in Tennessee.

The revenue generated from this tax would then be dedicated to fully funding the universal pre-K program.

If passed into law by the Tennessee General Assembly, House Bill 2234 and Senate Bill 2065 would mark the first-ever enactment of universal pre-kindergarten in the state, reinforcing Tennessee’s commitment to providing a robust educational foundation for its youngest residents.

MNPS pre-K application open for 2024-25 school year

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) early learning Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) program is now open for the 2024-25 school year. Families of Davidson County’s youngest learners are invited to apply for a seat at Metro School’s nationally recognized early learning program today.

MNPS’s early learning program focuses on a high-quality, play-based curriculum that supports and nurtures the development of the whole child, preparing them for kindergarten and beyond. Celebrated for its commitment to instilling foundational skills and confidence in the students, MNPS Pre-K and its experienced teachers set students on a path of exploration, lifelong learning and success.

The initial Pre-K application period is March 1–April 1, and families can apply online at <earlylearning.mnps.org>. Pre-K seats are limited, so families are encouraged to apply as early as possible. Families that apply after April 1 will be placed on a waiting list and selected as vacancies occur.

To apply for Pre-K:

Gather all required documents, including:

  • Record of birth. Children must turn four years old on or before August 15, 2024; some classrooms accept three years old.
  • Proof of Davidson County residency – current utility bill, telephone bill, lease or homeowner policy in the parent/guardian’s name.
  • Parent/guardian photo ID.

Obtain a student ID number for the upcoming student through the MNPS online portal and follow instructions to upload the required documents.

Once you receive the student ID number for your child, you can complete and submit the online Pre-K Application.

  • Contact an Enrollment Center by phone if you cannot apply online or need additional help.
  • Select the school year you are applying for on the Pre-K application.
  • After submitting the Pre-K application, you will receive instructions on next steps. You can also view the Pre-K selection results by visiting the Pre-K application website.

For more information, visit <earlylearning.mnps.org> or call the Family Information Center at (615) 259-INFO.

MNPS is also accepting kindergarten registration for the 2024-25 school year. Learn more at <earlylearning.mnps.org/kindergarten>.

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