Governor Bryant signed the Early Learning Collaborative Act into law last spring. The legislature appropriated $3 million for the program that will expand pre-K. Educators are hoping that can reverse some starting trends.
Directors of pre-K programs will all tell you the same thing, learning starts at an early age.
"They're like little sponges and the most they learn going to be by the time they get to 5 years of age," said Jennie Sturgis, Director of Noah's Ark Day Care in Jackson.
Now, the state has committed to pay up before kids ever hit kindergarten.
"Pay now or pay later. It is an investment," explained Dr. Kim Benton, interim deputy superintendent of the Mississippi Department of Education.
The results of this year's Kids Count report support the idea that the investment is needed.
"Kindergarten teachers reported that 41% of the children coming to public kindergartens in Mississippi are not ready to be there," said Kids Count Director Linda Southward.
The Department of Education is currently developing a statewide assessment for kindergartners. They believe it could help catch any learning gaps or problem areas before the child advances to the next grade.
"We're moving in the right direction," said Benton. "We just have to move quickly and do our work well."
At Noah's Ark Day Care, kids are learning everything from social skills, numbers, the alphabet, to vocabulary words.
"For our four and five year olds, our ultimate goal is school readiness," said director Jennie Sturgis.
Pre-K programs must have a collaboration with a school district or head start program to qualify for the grant money.
"It's as though we're begging for money, we're begging for education," explained director of Prep Company Tutorial Schools Deloris Suel.
Providers say they're hoping to all eventually qualify.
"The bottom line is the passion for the children," Suel explained.
The Department of Education received more than 70 letters of intent to apply for the grant money. The official proposals are due November 5.