For Immediate Release: February 7, 2017
JACKSON, Miss. – Individuals or corporations donated about $1.6 million to early learning collaboratives (ELCs) in 2016, providing state-funded early childhood education programs with additional support for student learning.
Last year’s donations exceeded donations of $276,850 in 2014 and $812,686 in 2015. The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 established the ELC program, which provides funding to local communities to establish, expand, support and facilitate the successful implementation of quality early childhood education and development services. The program marked the first investment of state money into early childhood education.
“I’m pleased to see the investment from community partners in early childhood education programs across the state. Their contributions send a strong message to teachers and students that they support their work toward a solid foundation for learning,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.
The law also stated that individuals or companies who make a contribution to support the local matching fund of an approved early learning collaborative may be eligible to receive a 1:1 state tax credit for the donated amount up to $1 million.
“We use donor funds to support our work in a very holistic way. It’s not just classroom needs,” said Megan Tooke with the Tallahatchie Early Learning Alliance. “When teachers need new materials for their art and science centers, it’s nice to have funds to be able to always say yes. It really expands what our teachers can do.”
The Tallahatchie Early Learning Alliance received more than $340,000 in donated funds in 2016. In addition to classroom materials, Tooke said they use the money to operate Imagination Library, a program of the Dolly Parton Foundation that mails a free book monthly to preschool children’s homes.
Dr. Dede Smith, assistant superintendent of Petal School District and director of Center for Families and Children, said the Imagination Library in Petal is also supported by donated funds. The ELC received more than $500,000 in 2016.
“Our Early Learning Collaborative grant does not include enough funds for field trips for the 80 children who are a part of the Petal Early Learning Collaborative. We plan to use some of the funds for field trips to numerous local sites and even to the Mississippi Children’s Museum in Jackson. We recognize the value of learning beyond the classroom and are very thankful for these funds so that we can provide these ‘out-of-the-classroom’ experiences for our children,” she said.
The Mississippi Department of Revenue can approve 1:1 tax credits up to the amount the Legislature appropriates to the Early Learning Collaborative Act each year. For 2016, the Legislature appropriated $4 million; therefore, the sum of the donations eligible for the tax credit may not exceed $4 million.
“I am grateful for the tremendous financial support that the private sector has shown toward early childhood education,” said Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, one of the authors of the founding ELC legislation. “This shows that true public-private partnerships can work if both sides are committed to a common goal. And in this case, Mississippi’s employers are making a long term investment in our future through their funding of our Early Learning Collaboratives.”
Mississippi Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, who co-authored the Early Learning Collaborative Act in the House, said the tax credits enable Mississippians to invest in early childhood education.
“We have strong evidence that the children who participate in the Early Learning Collaborative program start kindergarten prepared to learn,” Barker said. “As these programs maintain their commitment to evidence-based curricula, Mississippians will continue to see a return on investment in early childhood education.”
All donations are sent directly to the ELC so they can issue a donation letter to the contributor for tax purposes. The following ELCs have been approved for 2017:
1) Canton, Mississippi Early Learning Collaborative
2) Clarke County Early Learning Partnership
3) Coahoma County Pre-K Collaborative, Clarksdale
4) Corinth-Alcorn-Prentiss Early Learning Collaborative, Corinth
5) Greenwood-Leflore County Early Learning Collaborative, Leflore County
6) Grenada Early Learning Collaborative
7) Lamar County Early Learning Collaborative
8) McComb Community Collaborative for Early Learning Success
9) Monroe Early Learning Collaborative
10) Petal Early Learning Collaborative
11) Picayune School District Early Head Start
12) Sunflower County Early Learning Collaborative
13) Starkville Oktibbeha Early Learning Collaborative
14) Tallahatchie Early Learning Alliance