The Early Childhood Education Summit held Tuesday at the Magnolia Civic Center clearly defined the reason why Mississippi school children lag near the bottom among the states in educational performance.
Many Mississippi children arrive at kindergarten and first grade unprepared for learning. It is especially true for children coming from families in poverty and Mississippi has a high level of those.
Most never catch up to the level of other children and the result affects lots of things over time: the earning level of our citizens, the tax revenues available in the state and the overall economic development of the state.
There is a solution to much of this problem, and it is quality early childhood education for all children in the state. Mississippi is the only state in the nation that does not provide money for early childhood education.
Mississippi has 1,748 licensed child-care centers, but many are not of high quality and do not provide much service other than child-sitting. Mississippi does not require teachers in these facilities to have training in early-childhood education. In 2007 the state passed the Early Childhood Collaboration Act, which would have begun a voluntary early childhood program, and the state was to fund it beginning in 2008.
The problem is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and the state legislature failed to make it a priority. And few political observers expect the program will get money next year. Our own legislators, Sen. Nickey Browning of Pontotoc and Rep. Margaret Ellis-Rogers of New Albany were not even among the politicians who showed up for the education summit.
Mississippi’s future depends on its children. Our governor and legislature are failing to provide for that future.