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State Move Toward Publically Funded Pre-K

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 30 Jan 2013 06:25pm | comments
Senator Brice Wiggins

The Mississippi legislature could be taking steps toward publicly funding pre-K education for the first time. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports bills have been filed in both chambers to provide matching funds to put Mississippi kids into pre-K.

The bills would offer 2-thousand dollars, that a local early childhood center would have to match, to support putting Mississippi 4-year olds in pre-kindergarten classes.

The bill's author Senator Brice Wiggins of ocean springs says the first phase of the program would offer 8-million dollars in grants.

"Within our child care centers, within our schools the effort is there. But we have to raise the level of accountability but also implement a curriculum so these children can start learning so when they enter kindergarten they are ready," Wiggins said.

if approved, it would be the first time that the legislature has appropriated money for pre-k education.

The superintendent of Ocean Springs schools Bonita Coleman Potter says the money would help her district open pre-K classes.

"I have 5900 students in my school system. I have three head start collaborative class in my school system. But I don't have any pre-K classrooms in my school system because currently we can't afford them. So we would absolutely be one of those system in line to write a grant for this collaborative approach," Potter said.

Quality at early childhood centers often varies dramatically, so any program that receives grant money would have to be vetted by the department of education to ensure that they are meeting minimal educational standards.

What those standards would be worries Delores Sewell who runs a child care center in Jackson.

"I just think if they would bring child care to the table. See what we are doing. Look at the success rate of our children at the schools that they go to. Then they would find out there are centers doing quite well," Sewell said.

If the bill becomes law, supporters say the appropriation could grow in future years to offer grants to more Mississippi kids.

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Senator Brice Wiggins


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