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Preschools could be hit in budget cuts

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By Jennifer Caldwell

Some very small people may become the victims of a large budget cut.

With the State of Tennessee reporting an unprecedented budget shortfall, preschoolers across the state may soon fall victim to cuts in funding.

According to Dr. Karen Bundren, federal programs director for the school system, there is a very real possibility legislators will decide to trim the budget by reducing funding in preschool programs.

Campbell County’s preschools are currently operated with local, Title I and lottery dollars, but four of the county’s programs are funded with state money, Bundren said.

“We are worried about it,” Bundren said of the possibility of a reduction in funds.  “The governor said he is still committed to the preschool program, but that doesn’t mean the legislators won’t cut it.”

Valley View Elementary School Principal Steve Rutherford touted the importance of the preschool to students.

“Preschool really improves the overall preparation of students for school.  The program not only gives children a jump start on academics, but also creates familiarity with the staff and facility, which eases the transition into school,” Rutherford said.

In the school’s two preschool classrooms last Thursday students could be observed engaging in all sorts of creative and educational activities  some teachers would argue are an essential part of the educational experience.

Carolyn Johnson, Valley View preschool teacher, said what is learned in the preschool classroom prepares students to learn the skills required for kindergarten.

“We help promote the foundation needed for learning to read in kindergarten,” Johnson said of the work done to teach children the alphabet and letter sounds.

Rebecca Mongar, who also teaches preschool at Valley View, added the program is also important for teaching social skills.

“One of our main goals is socialization and preschool just gives the kids a leg up on kindergarten.  We just provide them with the resources and opportunities to learn,” Mongar explained.

Mongar also noted preschool is the prime time to foster excitement about education.

“They are so excited about school and about learning. Their curiosity and capabilities are amazing,” Mongar said.

Amanda Ayers, a kindergarten teacher at Valley View Elementary, said preschool is making a difference in the kindergarten classroom.

“Children who attend preschool tend to know how to behave and follow rules when they get to kindergarten.  The preschool teachers also do a great job working on fine motor skills, letters and numbers which is a big help when they get to my class,” Ayers said.

While no decision has been made on the fate of Tennessee’s state funded preschools, Bundren said she would encourage those who are concerned about seeing it continue to contact their legislators.

“If these cuts occur we are facing the possibility of losing a couple of preschools and we do not want to see that happen,” Bundren concluded.