Mid-South law enforcement calls for more investment in early childhood workforce

Updated: Dec. 10, 2019 at 4:17 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Local law enforcement leaders are calling for more investment in Tennessee’s early childhood workforce.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich, Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner joined Sen. Raumesh Akbari and Rep. Antonio Parkinson at Porter-Leath Early Childhood Academy in Memphis on Tuesday to push for more investment in early childhood education.

“The sooner we can get our kids to school, the better for them and the better for all of us,” said Weirich.

“What I can tell you from experience is that it’s important to get to kids as early as possible,” said Rallings. “Putting them on the right path as they’re just beginning school is a vital step in keeping them away from crime as they grow up.”

However, the law enforcement leaders are not just calling for more investment in students.

"When we say invest in our children, we must not forget about our teachers,” said Bonner.

Bonner, Weirich, and Rallings are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national non-partisan law enforcement organization which released a report on Tuesday that said Tennessee isn’t doing enough on early childhood education, particularly when it comes to the workforce.

The report said pre-K teachers in Tennessee make on average $32,630 compared to the average kindergarten teacher who makes $50,160.

In addition to better wages, the report said the state needs a more streamlined early childhood teacher certification process.

"Those would go a long way to ensure that there's a sustainable early childhood workforce in Tennessee,” said Joshua Spaulding, national director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.

State lawmakers said it’s something they’re committed to fighting for in the upcoming legislative session.

"This need to be our priority. It needs to be our priority in funding. It needs to be our priority in policy,” said Parkinson.

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