UPDATE on 2/25/20 at 1:51 PM CST: The committee substitute sent from Senate Ed passed the Senate Appropriations Committee with no amendments. It will now be listed on the Senate Calendar for consideration by the full Senate. Read the committee substitute.

Status

Senator Brice Wiggins and Education Chair Senator Dennis Debar, Jr. filed the Senate pre-K bill, SB2286, a couple of weeks ago. Last week, the Senate Education Committee passed the bill with two technical amendments. Technical amendments are fixes to the language in the bill in order to make sure the language is correct before it reaches the next phase in the life cycle of the bill.

Because the bill was double-referred, it must now pass the Senate Appropriations Committee before it can head to the Senate Calendar for a floor vote. (It is customary for bills with appropriations implications to get double-referred to an issue-based committee and the Appropriations Committee, e.g., Education and Appropriations.) If the bill passes the Senate floor, it will be sent to the House for further consideration.

Details about Senate Bill 2286

SB 2286 will raise the per-pupil funding rate, while at the same time supporting Mississippi’s goal of maintaining quality. 

Currently, the guaranteed per-pupil rate for each state-funded pre-K student is $4,300. Of this amount, half—or $2,150—is paid by the state while the other half is raised by the local collaborative. Now that the program is over six years old, Mississippi First has been able to use historical data to determine how much a quality pre-K classroom in a collaborative may actually cost. Those calculations determined that a classroom will cost approximately $100,000, assuming no additional overhead costs, such as a pre-K coordinator for each program. With class sizes capped at 20, per-pupil revenue needs to be at least $5,000 per child in order to cover the costs. As a result, collaboratives have been raising more money than the required $2,150 per child, which we refer to as “over-matching.” 

SB2286 would equalize the funding burden between the state and collaboratives by re-setting the per-pupil rate to $5,000, so that both the state and the collaborative pay $2,500. This additional cost to the state of $350 per child has an overall price tag of $1.09M over the current funding level of $6.7M.

The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 required Mississippi’s program to meet 10 of the 10 benchmarks for state-funded pre-K programs as published in 2013 by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). This requirement made Mississippi’s program one of the top five programs in the nation in terms of the quality of its program standards—a special accomplishment for any Mississippi education program. In the spring of 2017, NIEER announced its first overhaul of the benchmarks in 15 years to respond to the changing research landscape. This overhaul replaced one benchmark and changed two others. As a result, Mississippi’s law now only requires that the program meet 8 of the 10 new benchmarks. The tweaks in SB2286 will help Mississippi get back to 10 of 10 in our legislation. The bill also contains some other small tweaks, notably language to prioritize using a curriculum with the strongest available evidence base.

Read the whole bill here: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2020/pdf/history/SB/SB2286.xml.

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