State legislature includes additional early childhood funding in state budget

Staff Reports • Updated Apr 21, 2018 at 12:00 PM

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee budget approved by lawmakers Thursday included an additional $1.4 million in recurring funding for voluntary home-visiting programs, $1 million for Save the Children’s programs in the state, as well as $500,000 in new funding for Breakfast After the Bell programs.

“We are grateful to Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee – especially members of the House and Senate budget committees – who prioritized children and critical home visiting programs in this budget, which will result in more children having access to a quality early childhood education,” said Kris Perry, president of Save the Children Action Network. “These programs are proven to have long-lasting positive impacts, including improving literacy skills and reducing child abuse and neglect.”

Home visiting is a voluntary program that connects trained members of the community with families with young children to help give parents tools to promote early childhood development.

“Children need nutritious meals in order to focus and learn in school,” said Perry. “Thankfully, lawmakers understand this and we are grateful for the additional investment in Breakfast After the Bell programs that will ensure more kids are ready for the school day.”

“We look forward to continuing to work with state lawmakers and the governor in order to ensure all children in Tennessee have an equal shot at a bright future,” she said.

Mark Shriver, senior vice president of U.S. programs and advocacy at Save the Children, expressed gratitude for the state’s investment in the organization’s programs. Save the Children currently partners with 24 schools in nine counties in Tennessee to deliver home visiting, literacy and health programs to more than 10,000 children.

"This critical funding will allow us to serve even more low-income children across the state with high-quality programs,” said Shriver. “We know early childhood education is a key factor in breaking the cycle of poverty and is a smart economic investment. All kids deserve a strong start in life, and we are thankful for the opportunity to make sure each child in Tennessee receives one.”

Republican Caucus Leader Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, and Sens. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, sponsored the legislation. Tennesseans for Quality Early Education and key partners, including the Home Visiting Leadership Alliance, Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee, Save the Children Action Network and Children’s Hospital Alliance, supported the measure.

“This is a critical step in the right direction,” said Tennesseans for Quality Early Education executive director Mike Carpenter. “Rigorous evaluation shows that home-visiting programs have a positive impact on reducing child abuse and neglect, mitigating abuse of substances like opioids, improving school readiness for children and improving child and parent health. Home visiting also saves money, with $5.70 saved on health and welfare services for every tax dollar spent.”  

Additional funding will become a part of the Health Department’s home visiting budget, which will bring the total 2019 amount spent on home visiting to about $3.4 million. It will primarily fund the Healthy Start home visiting model, which works with families to improve maternal and newborn health, prevent abuse and neglect, promote family self-sufficiency, school readiness and intervene in situations involving substance abuse, crime or domestic violence.

“This restoration of funding sets the stage for increasing the number of children served in years to come,” said Carpenter. “Right now, we are serving less than 2 percent of the eligible children in the state, but the evidence cannot be ignored. Hopefully this is the beginning of an on-going strategic effort to provide home visiting to more of our state’s children.”

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. It invests in childhood – every day, in times of crisis and for the future.

Tennesseans for Quality Early Education is a statewide advocacy organization focused on education policy from birth to third grade. The bi-partisan coalition is comprised of business, law enforcement, faith, education and civic organizations and individuals in communities across Tennessee. The group’s members support high-quality early education to improve academic achievement, boost workforce development and enhance quality of life in communities.

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