Mississippi is being recognized as one of the top states for having a high-quality publicly funded pre-K program according to a recent report. But as MPB's Jasmine Ellis reports there are those in the state saying it's not enough.
The State of Preschool 2018 report tracks state-funded preschool access, resources, and quality. Steve Barnett is with the National Institute for Early Education Research or NIEER. He says Mississippi meets nine out of 10 quality standards for early childhood education including curriculum supports and staff-child ratio. Barnett says while Mississippi has 14 state-funded learning collaboratives for pre-K education, it only educates a small portion of children.
"As with many other states, the issue in Mississippi isn't so much whether you're doing a good job or not with the kids you're serving," said Barnett. "The issue is it's only five percent of the kids and that needs to grow."
Carol Burnett is with the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative. She says the legislature needs to fund a state-wide pre-K program to provide services for all children. Burnett says studies show there are benefits to children having a quality early childhood education.
"Children get support for cognitive development, social, and emotional development by learning about engaging with other children in their early childhood environments," said Burnett.
Fourteen state-funded early learning collaboratives are located at school districts, Head Start agencies, child care centers, and private non-profit organizations.
Kirkpatrick Elementary School in Clarksdale is a part of the Coahoma Early Learning Collaborative. Suzanne Walton is principal at the elementary school. She says for children who don't have access to a pre-K program, there are things that parents can do to help at home.
"For example watching Wheel of Fortune and when a letter is called out the parent can even repeat the letter and say 'look 'r' and have the child repeat that letter," said Walton. "They're learning those basic letters."
According to NIEER, Mississippi preschool enrolled 1,840 four-year-olds in 2017-2018. This is an increase of 530 four-year-olds from the prior year.