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Memphis may fund countywide pre-K with higher hotel taxes


November 3, 2017
Ryan Poe
The Commercial Appeal

The Memphis City Council may ask tourists to do what voters declined to do in 2013: fund universal needs-based prekindergarten for the first time in Shelby County history.

Although still in planning mode and facing opposition from hoteliers, council member Kemp Conrad could on Nov. 21 propose subsidizing local pre-K operators within the city — possibly with revenues generated by raising the city’s 3.5 percent hotel/motel tax.

The county is facing the loss of a significant portion of its pre-K funding — $7.9 million — when a federal preschool development grant expires in May 2019, Conrad said. If the funds aren’t replaced, the number of pre-K classroom seats in the county will drop from 7,420 to 6,340, a setback as the county aims for 8,500 seats.

“How it’s funded: Not entirely determined yet,” Conrad said of universal pre-K. “But in 2019, we’re going to be losing the preschool development grant and I believe the city needs to lead and be a catalyst for a sustainable and durable funding solution.”