What Do Candidates for Tennessee Governor Have to Say about Early Education?

Your vote matters in the upcoming Tennessee Primary Election on August 2, especially for kids and families across the state. Tennessee’s next Governor will make decisions about programs to help low-income and working class families’ access high-quality early learning and child care.

One such program is the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K Initiative (VPK) that provides the state’s 4-year-old children, primarily at-risk, with a high-quality academy program focused on kindergarten readiness. Currently this statewide program serves just 22% of all 4-year-olds.

Save the Children Action Network is not endorsing any candidate in the gubernatorial race, but to better understand where candidates stand, SCAN volunteers and students asked each candidate a key question: “If elected, will you increase funding in the 2019 budget for the Voluntary Pre-K Initiative?” Here’s what they said:

Diane Black, Republican Candidate for Governor

“For programs that are proven effective.
The best teacher for a child is a parent and I support home visiting.”


Randy Boyd, Republican Candidate for Governor

“Yes, yes, yes. In home visiting, voluntary pre-K, and
extending Books to Birth from birth through 3rd grade.
There’s no later learning without early learning.”


Karl Dean, Democratic Candidate for Governor

“Yes! Education is a top priority for me and was as mayor, too.
I want all kids to have access to pre-K.”


Craig Fitzhugh, Democratic Candidate for Governor

“Yes! I’d like to see pre-K for every child across the state!”


Beth Harwell, Republican Candidate for Governor

“Yes, for programs that are structured, efficient, and
effective – not a baby-sitting service.”


Bill Lee, Republican Candidate for Governor

“Pre-K has mixed reviews. We have to get the quality part right first.”


Early voting in Tennessee runs from July 13-28 leading up to Election Day on August 2.

You can specific voting information for your community at https://tnsos.org/elections/election_commissions.php and make a plan to vote for kids this summer.  

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Ashley Warrington is the Tennessee Mobilization Manager for SCAN. She has spent the last nine years working on various political campaigns in a fundraising and organizing capacity in Tennessee at the city, state, and federal level. She looks forward to using her experience to help Tennessee advocates be a force for children here and abroad.