Introducing a scholarship for Tennessee's littlest learners

Promising Futures - a scholarship program for children through age 5 to attend high-quality early care and learning programs - will help Tennessee children get a head start on their future, while giving working families a chance to thrive.

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A baby with a graduation gown and cap
A busy mom with two toddlers

The average cost of child care is higher than in-state college tuition in Tennessee.

Working families are struggling to afford high-quality care that allows them to make a living for their families. And children are missing out on the quality early learning foundation they need to thrive in school and beyond.

Promising Futures can help change that.

Taking a cue from the renowned Tennessee Promise scholarship program, it starts the investments earlier when the returns are greater. In the earliest years of life, the developing brain forms more than one million new connections per second, and 90 percent of brain development happens by age 5. The quality of care and education during that time determines whether a child’s developing brain provides a weak or strong foundation for future learning and development.

Make a promise to prioritize our littlest learners and show your support for Promising Futures by signing the petition today.

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I'm supporting Promising Futures, a scholarship for TN's littlest learners.

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Why Promising Futures?

A strong early learning foundation, from birth to third grade, is the key to not only academic achievement, but also workforce success and a strong economic future for our state. However, our state is facing a crisis, with about two-thirds of Tennessee's third graders not proficient in reading or math. Children not proficient in reading by third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school and 60% less likely to attend post-secondary. Low proficiency in third grade is an indication that Tennessee's early care and education system needs significant improvement.

The lack of affordable, high-quality child care options that can advance early learning has reached crisis levels too. Many parents depend on some non-parental care for their children to make a living for their families, yet that care is largely unaffordable. Additionally, inadequate child care contributes to $2.6 billion annually in lost earnings and revenues for parents, businesses and taxpayers.

High-quality child care, which enables adults to work while laying a foundation for children's success in school and beyond, is a powerful strategy for growing Tennessee's workforce of today and tomorrow simultaneously.

What Promising Futures entails:
  • A “last dollar” scholarship. “Last dollar” means the scholarship may be used to pay for tuition not covered by other funding, including federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Care Development Fund, Head Start, or state-funded Voluntary Pre-K.
  • A dedicated funding stream. Eighty percent of Sports Gambling Tax Revenue - which by law goes to a special Lottery for Education Account - will become dedicated solely to a new Promising Futures account, ramping up over a three-year timeline.
  • Child eligibility requirements. Eligible children will include those through age 5 who live in low- and middle-income households, who experience eligible hardships, or who live with foster or adoptive parents.
  • Parent choice. Scholarships may be used at a variety of early learning programs meeting Promising Futures quality standards and policies, allowing parents to choose the type of program best for their child. These include faith-based and community-based child care providers, home-based care, Head Start, and public and private preschools.
Are you ready to make the promise?

A recent poll conducted by TQEE shows that Tennesseans across party lines want more investment in early care and education. An overwhelming 87 percent support expanding state financial aid to cover more low and middle-income families so that parents can afford to work.

Through Tennessee Promise, our state has made a big and meaningful commitment to post-secondary education. Now is the time to extend that same commitment to our youngest Tennesseans to ensure a strong early learning foundation and future learning success.

Make a promise to prioritize our littlest learners. Our futures depend on it.