Collaborative Pre-K Recommended for MississippiBy Annie Gilbertson | Published 24 Jan 2012 11:20am |
Mississippi is one of only ten states without state-funded preschool, but that could change this legislative session. Today, education policy group Mississippi First is releasing a plan, recommending that the state adopt a collaborative preschool delivery model. MPB's Southern Education Desk reporter, Annie Gilbertson, reports.
Mississippi's early learning system is fragmented, but some preschool providers say it's time to collaborate.
At PreK4Ward in Gulfport organizers collaborate with the local school district and business leaders to bring public preschool to kids in the area. PreK4Ward Director Cynthia Walker said the community knew preschool was important so everyone pitched in to get the program off the ground.
Walker: “It saddens me that our education community understands this, and our legislators and our funding agents don’t yet see it that way.”
Walker said she's gotten requests to expand to other public school sites, but can't afford to staff more than two classrooms without state support. It's an issue of universal access that is on many legislators' minds. Rachel Canter, Executive Director of Mississippi First, offered legislators a plan of action in an issue brief released this morning.
Canter: “Across the country, most states have collaborative delivery models, and the way that most of them oversee them is through an office within the department of education.”
Canter says a collaborative delivery system statewide would use existing preschool providers like Head Start, childcare centers and public schools to build-out a universal preschool system. In return for public cash, these providers would be held to strict accountability in terms of quality.
The most recent collaborative preschool bill was introduced to the state senate January 20, 2012.
John Moore, Chair of the Education Committee in the Mississippi House says collaborative delivery may be a way to save on start up costs, but still might not be fiscally feasible.
Moore: “There is no doubt there is huge needs out there, but at the end of the day it’s all about the green stuff. It’s all about the money.”
And that, he says, is in short supply.
From the Southern Education Desk, for MPB News, I'm Annie Gilbertson.
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