What do Tennesseans think about some hot-button education issues? According to a recent poll by Vanderbilt University, pre-kindergarten and early childhood education are high priority for people in Tennessee.
More than 3 out of 5 Tennesseans say the state should spend more money on pre-k programs. Currently pre-k in Tennessee is funded at $ 83-million a year and is available in 94 out of 95 counties. But it is still a voluntary program with too few openings for the demand– even though research shows Tennessee pre-k students out-perform their peers when they reach kindergarten.
The Vanderbilt Poll also finds that a majority of those who responded think teachers are underpaid and need more support.
Parents like Tiffany Kollicker agree. She has 2 sons in elementary school in Lebanon City School District.
“I think the schools need more money for education assistants,” says Kollicker. “The teacher can not do all the work on her own. There’s a lot to it and a lot of one on one time needed, especially in the earlier grades.”
The poll also finds that most people surveyed do not approve of a new state law that puts limits on teachers unions. A majority also do not support tax-funded vouchers for students to attend private schools.
The state legislature is considering a proposal by Sen. Brian Kelsy, R-Germantown, to fund school vouchers for low-income students. Several organizations representing public school systems, including The Coalition of Large School Systems and the Tennessee School Boards Association recently voiced objection to the proposal. Nashville Public Schools is among those.
“It’s not good legislation for a number of reasons. Philosophically, it’s do we use public money to support private schools? ,” says Dr. Jesse Register, Director of Nashville Public Schools. “It’s not good timing from a standpoint of so much has changed in this state in the past 2 years: we’ve eliminated collective bargaining, we’ve got a new teacher evaluation system, we’ve significantly raised standards in this state. The public school systems have under gone a great deal of change… And we think the voucher legislation is another piece that we don’t need at this time.”
The poll found that Tennesseans rank education as a priority, topped only by jobs.
The poll was conducted by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt. It polled 1,500 Tennesseans from October 28-November 5, 2011.