Forum held to discuss Pre-K sales tax vote - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Forum held to discuss Pre-K sales tax vote

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Rev. Kenneth Whalum representing those opposed to the Pre-K tax and Dr. Barbara Prescott those in support (Matt Gerien / FOX13 News) Rev. Kenneth Whalum representing those opposed to the Pre-K tax and Dr. Barbara Prescott those in support (Matt Gerien / FOX13 News)
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Supporters and opponents of the Pre-K sales tax referendum, scheduled for a vote Thursday, squared off in a debate Monday, three days before voters cast their ballot.

Supporters of this initiative say it's an investment in the city's future but the opponents say the city's poorest can't afford to pay for it.

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More than a 100 people gathered at the Benjamin Hooks Library to hear about the Memphis sales tax referendum. The initiative would raise the city's sales tax by half a percent to pay for more Pre-K classrooms.

Two former school board members faced off. Dr. Barbara Prescott supports the plan while Rev. Kenneth Whalum, Jr., does not.

"I do not apologize for having passion for the poorest among the poor in Memphis, Tenn.," Rev. Whalum said. "I do not apologize."

Rev. Whalum said the city's poorest citizens can't afford the tax but Dr. Prescott said it will help those families.

"It does affect more per family, those who have low income, but at the same time this particular initiative also has greater benefits for children of families with low income because these are the children who are primarily going to be able to take advantage," Dr. Prescott said.

If Memphis voters approve the initiative the money raised will go into a trust Mayor A C Wharton would appoint and the city council would approve a commission to manage the Pre-K program.

Any money left over after the Pre-K classrooms are established would go toward lowering property taxes.

"Nobody in their right mind would argue against high quality effective Pre-K," Rev. Whalum said. "That's not the issue, that's not the issue. The issue is how do we pay for it?"

"Memphis could make an astounding difference in the life of our children and I believe that this is an opportunity for our children to succeed," Dr. Prescott said.

More than 7,500 cast early votes in the election. Early voting ended Nov. 16. The polls will be open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Nov. 21 for the referendum vote.

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