Knoxville representative cites study, wants Pre-K funding cut

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- For many children, pre-kindergarten programs are the first steps of their education, but now a state lawmaker says it's a waste of your tax dollars.

On one hand you have a state representative with a study that says pre-K has no long-term effects. But on the other hand you have educators and parents who are passionate about the importance of getting kids in the classroom before kindergarten.

Linda Riffey is a mother of 11, including six at-risk kids she has adopted.

"Most of all my kids are special needs, they have problems, they come from homes of drug abuse."

In her experience the early education is the best thing to happen to these children.

Riffey say, “My little boy, he's very delayed and if it hadn't been for the preschool program he probably would not have gotten to go to Kindergarten this year."

But a new study says the effect wears off over time.

An Ohio research group says that pre-K students test significantly higher on kindergarten assessments than kids without that early education, but by second grade there's no difference between the children.

State Representative Bill Dunn says, “So since we have very limited resources here in Tennessee, I just think it’s smart to put the money where it can be more effective in our education programs."

So Rep. Dunn of Knoxville says the nearly $300 million should go to other programs.

Knox County Schools Pre-K Specialist Carol Idol says, “I think being proactive and spending money up front is the best way to go because we'll have long range effects."

Idol says other studies say the program does have a positive impact.

Idol says, “Not only has research reports shown that socially the kids are better adjusted but they're more likely to graduate from High School."

The research group did say in the study that no single report can address every question about a program as large as Tennessee's pre-K system, and future reports are planned.

Linda Riffey says, “I just encourage the Governor and everybody to keep this program, because I think its a great program."

Rep. Dunn says he hopes to work with other legislators to find new areas of education to allocate the money.

It’s yet to be seen how other lawmakers are responding to the study, and whether voters will contact their representatives.

CLICK HERE to read the full study.

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