Pre-K Commission appointees holds first meeting - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Pre-K Commission appointees holds first meeting

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

One more full day of campaigning is left before Memphis voters head to the polls Thursday. They're deciding whether to increase the sales tax by a half a percent.

The revenue would fund more Pre-K programs for city children. If the referendum passes an eight-person commission will manage the money and the city's Pre-K program.

DOWNLOAD: Read Pre-K Commission documents

Mayor A C Wharton has already announced his appointments and Tuesday afternoon the group held its first meeting. They did release some new details about how they want the system to function.

Though it was the first meeting for the mayor's appointees, they're just private citizens sharing their opinions at this point. There are several important steps, like voting on the initiative, before anything's certain.

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"We're very deeply committed to this because we think it will make an enormous difference for Memphis and the children and the future," said Barbara Hyde, Pre-K Commission appointee.

Five of the commission's eight prospective nominees gathered Tuesday at First Baptist Broad Church. The meeting was orchestrated by the campaign supporting Thursday's ballot measure.

"The first thing we have the responsibility of doing is making sure that when the sales tax is implemented that we govern the resources available to us spend as much as we have before us on quality Pre-K. That's our No. 1 goal," said Rev. Keith Norman, campaign chair and a prospective appointee.

The group handed out a list of objectives and some proposed rules. The members plan to work on a voluntary basis, they say they'll hold town hall meetings and get public input, and they say everything they do will be transparent.

If the sales tax increase passes Thursday the group will decide how to spend the money.

"Our goal is to just make it available to the number of children that are not presently being served," Rev. Norman said.

The first priority is opening Pre-K to the city's four-year-olds.

"That's a critical age because that's before they go into kindergarten," Rev. Norman said.

Members of the group say they'll be trustees watching over the taxpayer's money. They say they'll hire consultants and review best practices from other programs around the country.

But it's unclear when the new Pre-K classrooms would open.

"We have some targets that at this point are within reach," Rev. Norman said. "However we don't want to make that promise to the general public because we don't want to create an expectation that something can happen before it does."

Several things need to happen before this group can make any official decisions. The sales tax increase would have to pass Thursday, Mayor Wharton has to make the appointments official, and the city council has to approve them.

But the group's members say they're ready to get to work.

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