Advocates and parents lobby for continued investments in early childhood education

Advocates and parents lobby for continued investments in early childhood education
Mississippi is making investments in early learning collaboratives in communities where there is the highest need. (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi doesn’t require preschool but the state is pouring more money into those programs.

Wednesday’s day at the State Capitol for these advocates was also about raising awareness of the work being done with the state’s little ones and why that matters down the road.

Starting to learn at an early age is an investment that advocates say yields high returns.

“We can target some of the issues we see in K-12 if we get it right in the beginning,” explained Mississippi Early Learning Alliance Executive Director Angela Bass.

Seven years ago, lawmakers started listening to pleas like that.

“We were one of only ten states to have no support for early education,” said Senator Brice Wiggins.

Because of that, the Early Childhood Collaborative Act was passed. Essentially it said the state would pay for half the cost per child participating in the program in under-served areas of the state.

“It’s the state writing that whole check," explained Wiggins. "We had the public-private partnership. And like I said earlier, we’ve seen over 2.5 million dollars flowing into the collaboratives.”

But education group Mississippi First is launching a campaign called “Raise the Rate." The original law stated half the cost per child is $4,300. They say it needs to be raised to $5,000.

“When we originally did the collaborative, because we were smart with our money, we weren’t quite there," said Wiggins. "We want to make sure we’re there.”

There’s also the hope that an increased investment could lead to more collaboratives around the state.

“It’s not babysitting," added Bass. "It’s brain building.”

With renewed pushes for workforce and economic development, the parents and advocates at the Capitol today say this is an important piece in best preparing our workforce of the future.

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