By Jeffrey Hess
Mississippi Public Broadcasting–April 26, 2011
A new report shows that Mississippi is among a handful of states that does not offer state sponsored pre-kindergarten education. It has been almost 30 years since Mississippi became the last state to offer kindergarten education. MPB’s Jeffrey Hess reports the leaders who brought Kindergarten to Mississippi see pre-K as the next step.
In late 1982, the Mississippi legislature to passed the Education Reform Act.
The law changed state education in a number of ways, most notably making Mississippi the final state to offer public kindergarten.
The governor at the time, William Winter, says it took a lot of effort to bring kindergarten to the state.
“I think the pride of Mississippi really came in a said ‘we can’t be last in everything’. I think that is what happened. There were still a lot of people opposed to it. They didn’t want to raise any taxes for any more education services. But then they were convinced and they have been convinced ever since,” Winter said.
Mississippi is one of ten state to not offer pre-kindergarten education, and Winter says pre-K is the logical extension of the 1982 reforms.
Former State Representative Robert Clark chaired the house Education committee in 1982.
Clark says expanding education helps the state.
“If we do not have pre-K, a child is already lost when he gets to school and 90% of them will never catch up. So we have got to come to grips and fund education,” Clark said.
Mississippi Building Blocks is a 4-year program studying the potential impact of pre-k in Mississippi.
Building Blocks Director Laurie Smith say all the research shows the benefits of pre-K education.
“There is so much brain research that is available now that shows that the first 5 years of life are the biggest brain growth time in a human’s development and yet the least amount of money goes into it,” Smith said.
Smith says just one year of the building blocks program in the state is already showing measurable results, that she hopes will translate into more support for expanding public education to even younger Mississippi children.