Mississippi applying for federal pre-K grant - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Mississippi applying for federal pre-K grant

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Millions of dollars from the feds could give you more options for educating your kids. Lots of folks in the education community think of preschool as a building block to success for our kids. 

The Mississippi Department of Education is applying for a four year pre-K grant. Supporters say it would improve access to those classrooms.

Starting to learn at an early age is an investment that yields high returns according to Angela Bass at Mississippi First.

"We can get a lot of bang for our buck," explained Bass. "And in a state with not a lot of money but extremely important."

If Mississippi gets the federal funds, they'll be able to expand the existing pre-k system. Break down the $15 million grant and it'll mean serving around 3,000 more kids. 35 percent of the money would go to teachers and training.

"65% of the funds have to go towards the child being in pre-K so creating spaces new spaces and you opportunities for kids to go to pre-K," described Bass.

The legislature only recently hopped on the pre-k bandwagon.

"Prior to 2013 there was no state investment in pre-K," said Bass.

The state's currently giving 3 million dollars to 11 different communities. Those communities have what's called collaboratives. They're basically networks led by a public school. It can also include Head Start and private pre-K schools.

"In the law, these collaboratives have to meet 10 of 10 benchmarks that say that these are the things that lead to readiness in kindergarten," said Bass.

But some feel left out.

"We've been trying to get collaboratives with Head starts and school systems been unsuccessful," explained director of Noah's Ark Day Care Center Jennie Sturgis.

Sturgis says private pre-K's should be included as an option and she doesn't see that happening enough with the current model.

"We have to do something inside Mississippi," said Sturgis. "And what we need to look at is the educational process for our young children. This is where it starts and we cannot leave them behind."

The Department of Education did not have answers about what the funding plans would be for the pre-K after the four year grant, if it's approved.

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