Senate Bill 2286, sponsored by Sen. Brice Wiggins, would expand the state’s taxpayer-funded prekindergarten program to 25 percent of the state’s 4-year-old children by the 2022-2023 school year.

The bill would also increase the amount spent per student from $2,150 per student for a full-day program and $1,075 for a half-day one under present legislation to $2,500 and $1,125 respectively.

There have been countless studies that have shown that while prekindergarten programs can be effective in giving 4-year-olds a boost going into kindergarten and first grade, those positive effects tend to fade away by the time they enter the third grade. One example is a 2019 study of Tennessee’s prekindergarten program. It found that short-term, positive effects on early learners diminished by the time students reach the third grade. 

Even the legislature’s own watchdog, the PEER Committee (Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review) is skeptical. In its second report on the state’s taxpayer-funded prekindergarten program since its inception in 2013, PEER said there isn’t enough evidence to conclude whether pre-K programs provide a positive impact. The report also questioned the curriculum used by the state program and whether it had been properly compared against other similar curricula. 

One problem with the expansion taxpayer-funded prekindergarten is that it will crowd out private providers, who can’t compete with entities funded with tax dollars. Taxpayers also shouldn’t be footing a bigger bill for a program with questionable results when it comes to early learners. 

MCPP has reviewed this legislation and finds that it violates our principles and therefore should be opposed. 

Read SB 2286.

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