Early Learning Collaborative
Right now, the state only provides enough funding for about 2,000 of Mississippi’s 40,000 eligible three and four-year-olds to attend public preschool. As News 25’s Katarina Luketich shows us, education leaders are trying to get more money for the Early Learning Collaborative so more children can have a leg up in school.
Noah just turned five and can already read, thanks to what he’s learning at the community funded pre-k forward program. Educators say these skills learned at an early age give kids an advantage when they get to kindergarten. Owner and director of Little People’s Christian Academy Lori Rolison said, “When I taught kindergarten I could always tell the children who had been in a preschool setting and those who had not.”
Not all kids have the opportunity to attend preschool. State-wide public pre-k is only available to a handful of children through the Early Learning Collaborative and none of those programs are on the Coast. State educators are hoping for more funds this year to give that opportunity to more students in the Magnolia State.
The Early Learning Collaborative was meant to be like building blocks with $3 million the first year and an additional $3 million each year after that. Last year, the Legislature denied the increase and leveled funding at just $3 million. However, this year, the Department of Education is asking for the full $9 million in funding. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright said, “It is much more inexpensive to educate at an early age than it is to try to remediate at an older age. I can tell you that as a fact.”
Dr. Wright is a firm believer that if we expand pre-k and give these kids the skills early then we wouldn’t have to worry about things like the third grade reading gate. Research has also shown attending preschool reduces incarceration and dropout rates. In an impoverished state where these rates are so high, Dr. Wright tells News 25 it’s something you can’t ignore. “These children, in a state that has as much poverty as we do, these children deserve a leg up. That’s one of the reasons I’ve just been pushing so hard for it.”
She hopes the Legislature will come through with the funds to expand pre-k so more kids have the chance to be successful in school.
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