MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on the Shelby County Commission budget.
It wasn’t pretty by any means. But the County Commission listened to pleas from education advocates and others before finally approving a $1.3 billion budget.
The county for the first time is funding the Memphis Area Transit Authority. But the most significant budget item is an $8 million expenditure for pre-kindergarten classes. $2.5 million will be used to replace a federal Pre-K grant that expires next week.
Pre-K funding has become a priority for city and county government. And that’s a good thing. Most experts agree that 4-year-olds who attend a quality Pre-K program do better academically in elementary school and beyond. As one Pre-K advocate told commissioners Monday, there is no dollar amount that can be placed on the magic when a child is afforded the opportunity to be educated. And I completely agree.
Of course, the downside to the budget process was the last-minute juggling just to get the plan approved. Plus, some commissioners, notably Edmund Ford Jr. and Michael Whaley, wasted time with unnecessary criticism of county mayor Lee Harris, accusing him of a lack of leadership, when they and some of their colleagues created problems with budget add-ons without the money to pay for them.
Overall though, the commission sent a strong positive message that public transportation and early childhood education are important elements to making our community better. And that’s my point of view.