The Mississippi Legislature is considering a proposal that would provide some state money and standards for preschool programs in the state.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn had a press conference Wednesday to show support for bills that would provide the first state aid to early childhood education.
The legislation would provide $8 million in matching funds next year to school districts, private and parochial schools, private child-care centers and Headstart.
It also would establish teacher qualifications and curriculum for schools that receive state money and would be run by the state Department of Education.
The lieutenant governor said communities that participate in Mississippi Building Blocks or Excel by 5 would receive priority for the money. New Albany and Union County have been certified as an Excel by 5 community.
Many Mississippi children arrive at kindergarten and first grade unprepared for learning. It is especially true for children coming from families in poverty and our state has a high percentage 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.
Mississippi is the only state in the nation that does not provide money for early childhood education. This legislation appears to be a first step in bringing our state into step with the rest of the nation on the issue of early childhood education.