TN_State_CapitolUnited Ways of Tennessee (UWTN), the association of 38 United Ways in the state, today gathers for its Day on the Hill to support preservation of funding for Pre-K classrooms, K-12 standards, and federal funding for afterschool programming. Advocates gather for a training session and awards ceremony in the House Chamber, followed by visits with their legislators.

“While we were grateful that Pre-K classrooms received full funding in the Governor’s budget, we need to stay vigilant,” said Dawn Holley, Board Chair of United Ways of Tennessee. “Every $1 spent on Pre-K saves taxpayers $7 by reducing the need for special education, welfare and criminal justice services. We’re serving less than 40 percent of at-risk children now, and research shows that Pre-K leads to higher graduation rates, less crime, and better wages for those who attended.”

United Way advocates are also encouraging their legislators to preserve Tennessee’s academic standards. “Our state’s academic standards ensure our kids are prepared for college and the workforce,” said Holley. “If students graduate with critical thinking, strong writing, and problem-solving skills, they’ll have the tools they need to succeed in life.”

With its many partners, United Way is also educating the legislature about the newly launched Tennessee Afterschool Network, which is made possible by a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, UWTN and eight locally based United Ways in the state. “The Tennessee Afterschool Network supports children, youth, families and communities by advocating and building capacity for safe, healthy and nurturing afterschool experiences,” said Mary Graham, UWTN President.

“Research shows that students participating in high-quality afterschool programs have better school attendance, grades, and standard test performance compared to students who do not participate in afterschool programs. They also have less misconduct and less use of drugs and alcohol. Quality afterschool is also a tremendous support providing peace of mind for our working parents in this state.” said Graham.

United Way and other advocates from the Tennessee Afterschool Network are encouraging Tennessee’s legislators to contact Senator Alexander and Senator Corker in Washington, D.C.

“Our state needs assurances that any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes continued support and authorization of the 21st initiative,” said Graham. “This program provides funding to local school-community partnerships in order to provide quality afterschool and summer learning programs. Cuts would be devastating to our state.”

(Note: This story was provided by United Ways of Tennessee. United Way of the Mid-South is a member organization and has representation in today’s Day On The Hill activities.)