• Early Education

In 2012, Mississippi was one of only ten states without a pre-K program. Leaving Last in Line gave Mississippi the start in becoming to being first in something significant—pre-K. The collaborative delivery model presented in the issue brief was the inspiration behind Mississippi’s pre-K law, the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013.

Major Takeaways

Pre-Kindergarten is an educational program for children between the ages of three and five, although most children attending state-funded pre-K nationally are four years old. Since cognitive science shows that all children’s brains will improve and develop if given appropriate stimuli, pre-K’s purpose is to promote brain development directly linked to academic skills such as reading and numeracy. Quality pre-K programs often also provide care—services focused on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of a child. In the last several decades, researchers have amassed tremendous proof that pre-K works, especially for children born into poverty.

Recommendation One

Allow eligible providers two methods of participation in the pre-K program: a direct application method and a collaborative council method.

Recommendation Two

Set a quality baseline for participation using a standardized measure and utilize existing capacity building programs to help low-quality centers reach the baseline.

Recommendation Three

Establish a new state office for pre-Kindergarten in the Mississippi Department of Education.

Recommendation Four

Adopt the 10 NIEER standards as a framework for Mississippi’s program standards.

Recommendation Five

Conduct a pilot program with Mississippi school districts and a diverse group of partner providers.

Recommendation Six

Pilot funding sources for pre-K before making a decision about long-term financing. Consider a phased-in approach to implementation of the program statewide.

Recommendation Seven

Prepare a fiscal note to quantify the cost of both a pilot program and a fully funded statewide program.


Rachel Canter

Executive Director

Rachel Canter is the Executive Director of Mississippi First and author of additional Mississippi First reports, including Leaving Last in Line, the State of Pre-K series, and Nothing in the Pipes: Educator Crisis in Mississippi (2020). Rachel founded Mississippi First in 2008.