This news deserves its own post.
The Mississippi State Legislature doubled its investment in state-funded pre-K to $16M. This is an historic step that ensures educational excellence for Mississippi kids.
Pre-K has been a founding policy area for us. When we helped pass the original law in 2013, we hoped that within 10 years 25% of Mississippi’s four-year-olds would have access to high-quality, low- or no-cost pre-K. Today, with this major commitment from the legislature, we are almost there! During the 2021-2022 school year, 16% of Mississippi four-year-olds (roughly 6,080 children) will have access to an Early Learning Collaborative (ELC) seat.
This expansion was made possible by new lottery funds coming into state coffers. The lottery funds will cover $8,210,526, the expansion amount, and the general fund will cover $7,789,474, which is the same amount as last year. As time goes on and we begin to see lottery funds grow and stabilize, we hope the legislature will continue to prioritize pre-K.
Finally, we were thrilled to see the legislature acknowledge the importance of support for pre-K teachers by committing $1.5M for pre-K coaches. This will help the Mississippi Department of Education continue to provide high-quality professional experiences to pre-K teachers in collaboratives without the agency being totally reliant on philanthropic funds.
This year we also continued to advocate making the per-pupil rate change permanent.
During the 2020 legislative session, the legislature raised the pre-K rate from $4,300 to $5,000 per child, a difference of $700 total and $350 in state funds. Because the pandemic interrupted the session, the legislature made this change directly in the budget bill which means it has to be renewed annually. This year, we were able to extend the change via the budget bill. We will be back next year to make this permanent. We know these dollars are essential to Mississippi collaboratives. Read first-hand accounts from ELCs to see how those dollars were spent this year to help Mississippi four-year-olds and families.
How did this happen? Lots of hard work by many pre-K champions.
This work is never done alone; legislative victories are a group effort. We would love if you would join us in showing some appreciation to the following pre-K champs, without whom these pre-K wins would not have been possible:
- Holly Spivey, the Education Advisor to the Governor. It makes such a difference to have a real champion for the collaboratives in the Governor’s office. Holly is indispensable to pre-K in Mississippi, and we are very grateful to her. Governor Reeves, her boss, has been a supporter of pre-K since 2013. Thank them, please!
- Senator Dennis DeBar (Chairman of Senate Ed) and Senator Brice Wiggins (Pre-K Champion)—These senators consistently go to bat for Mississippi kids. Tell them thank you!
- Representative Richard Bennett (Chair of House Ed) and Representative Kent McCarty (Vice-Chair of House Ed/Pre-K Champion) were instrumental in moving pre-K legislation through the House. True pre-K champs! Tell them thank you!
- Leah Smith, the Education Advisor to the Lt. Governor, and Lt. Gov. Hosemann—Both continue to show their dedication to Mississippi’s youngest learners. Thank you!
- Jason Dean, former State Board of Education chair—Jason helped make phone calls to ensure there were lottery dollars for pre-K. Thank you, Jason!
- The many legislators that voted “Yes!” on the many pre-K bills this session. We give you a big gold star for your ongoing commitment to Mississippi’s four-year-olds!
We are so grateful that there are so many Mississippians who are committed to ensuring our youngest minds have what they need from the start to be great! The above list is by no means exhaustive. It takes all of us to continue to make Mississippi first in education, but today, we got one big step closer.