Interest in Mississippi's first, state-funded, voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program is strong. MPB's Paul Boger reports child care centers will have to compete for a piece the program's three million dollars.
Jennie Sturgis is the Director of Noah's Ark Daycare Center in Jackson. She says pre-kindergarten programs and other early childhood learning centers like her's need additional funding.
"The first thing we need are qualified teachers." said Sturgis. "The second thing we need, the teachers that we already have, we're going to have to bring them up to standard. Then we need materials. We have to educate our parents because they have not a clue what some of these kids need in order to function in a child care center and then in a public school."
That's why Sturgis wants to receive some of the state's first pre-k funding, and she's not alone.
According to the state Department of Education, 72 groups have filed letters of intent to apply for the more than 1300 spots available.
State Senator Brice Wiggins helped write the bill that created the funding. He's excited that the program has received a high amount of interest.
"It's great." said Wiggins. "In fact, what it shows is the tremendous interest there is in high-quality, sustained early education in the state of Mississippi."
All applications and proposals are due November 5th. That's when the state Department of Education will choose which applicants to fund.
Senator Wiggins says more money could be allocated to the program based on it's success.
"The hope is that it's so successful that we in the legislature are going to have to look at it and decide whether we need to increase the funding." Wiggins said.
State funding will be awarded to pre-k programs based on capacity, commitment, need, the ability to demonstrate enhanced outcomes for participating children, and the availability of funds.