MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - With less than a week until Election Day, the Unified Memphis-Shelby County School Board is taking a stand when it comes to a sales tax referendum.
On Tuesday night, the School Board voted 14-6 to support the referendum. It came after dueling press conferences earlier in the evening about whether the board should include language in their vote requiring the proceeds go towards funding a universal pre-kindergarten program.
The Transition Planning Commission recommended the new unified school system add 2,500 children to the Pre-K program at a cost of around $15 million over 5 years.
Overall, a new 1/2 cent sales tax is expected to generate around $60 million dollars, with half of that earmarked for education.
"We think this $30 million will provide a way for our board who has already committed to early-childhood investments and to make them wisely, this is the best investment we can make in our kids," said Mark Sturgis with Stand For Children, a group in support of an expanded pre-K program.
"If Stand For Children stands for children they should stand for all children, and that means - I hope they are here and I hope they hear me say it - it seems like they are targeting certain board members and going after it, and I have a real problem with that," said Unified School Board Member Mike Wissman, who voiced objection to the way Stand For Children went about voicing support for the Pre-K push.
In a news conference before Tuesday night's meeting, Shelby County Commissioner Chris Thomas said as it stands now, the board can't vote to require that funding go towards Pre-K.
"Don't buy into the lies," Thomas said. "The misleading that is going on here. Do your due diligence and see what is going on here and do not support this 1/2 cent sales tax."
The Board voted 14-6 to support the tax, but didn't include any language requiring any of the proceeds from the sales tax increase go towards funding Pre-K.