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Advocates lobby for More Early Learning Collaborative Fundin

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Advocates lobby for More Early Learning Collaborative Funding
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Thirty Mississippi organizations are lobbying legislators for more funding to help educate the state's four-year olds. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

Education Advocates say Mississippi early childhood collaboratives are ranked 5th in the nation; an achievement they're talking about at the state capitol. There are only 18 statewide reaching eight percent of four year olds. Rachel Canter is with the non-profit Mississippi First.

"The data for children in our early learning collaboratives is fantastic, they out perform children in other types of Pre-K programs in the State of Mississippi. About 75 percent of kids in early learning collaboratives hit the cut score to be ready for kindergarten," said Canter.

But Canter says more collaboratives are needed. On average she says one-third of Mississippi children aren't ready for kindergarten. Schools, private childcare centers and headstarts form the programs. The state allocated $6.5 million for early learning collaboratives at a cost of $4,300 per student. The state funds half and those who collaborate pay half. Republican Senator Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula, the new vice chair of appropriations, is passionate in his support of the program.

"The things that we end up having to deal with like the mental health issues," said Wiggins."Prison," said Frazier. The prisons, part of the collaborative requirement is that you have health screenings. Imagine if you caught those early and didn't have to deal with them on the back end," said Wiggins.

Democratic Senator David Jordan says four-year olds need this program.

"That is the time for basic principles to be established in the home, church and the school," said Jordan.

Canter is asking lawmakers for $13 million for next year, which could pay for 36 collaboratives. Senator Brice Wiggins says increases will be provided but slow and steady.