Early education is a founding policy area for Mississippi First. In our initial phase of work, we authored and successfully advocated for the Early Learning Collaborative Act, which established state-funded pre-K in Mississippi in 2013. Today, we are dedicated to ensuring quality as the program scales, protecting our gains since 2013, and deepening our work in the 0-5 space through research and advocacy.

How We Support Early Education

As we expand our impact focus to 0-5, we have developed five areas of work to continue to grow support and access to high-quality early education in Mississippi.


Improve and expand the Early Learning Collaborative program and ensure that it remains Mississippi’s only state-funded pre-kindergarten program.

Layered Funding Programs

Expand the number and type of layered funding programs that serve the 0-5 space.

Financial Sustainability

Research and propose policies to address the financial viability of the early childhood education profession.

Quality Improvement and Support System

Support an equitable quality improvement and support system that centers provider and family voices.

Data System

Support data best practices for child and state program data.

Types of Early Education Programs in Mississippi

Licensed Childcare for Very Young Children
Serves 0-5-Year-Olds

A licensed childcare program provides supervised care to children of any age for which the facility is licensed by the State Department of Health. Examples include childcare programs located in church facilities, private businesses, or private residences. Some Head Start centers must also be licensed, if not affiliated with an educational institution such as a public school. Licensed childcare programs can also serve older children through summer programs and before and after school care.

Early Head Start & Head Start
Serves Toddlers Under the Age of 3 & 3-5-Year-Olds

Early Head Start and Head Start are programs of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. They provide comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and family engagement services to low-income children and their families. Every county in Mississippi has at least one Head Start center.

Early Learning Collaboratives
Serves 4-Year-Olds

Early Learning Collaboratives (ELCs), our state-funded pre-K programs, currently operate in 37 communities and serve over 6,000 students. ELCs involve many partners, including school districts, Head Starts, and licensed childcare providers. These partners commit to working together to provide high-quality pre-K to Mississippi’s four-year-olds. Collaboratives are overseen by the Mississippi Department of Education, even though individual providers may also have other oversight agencies.

Other Public School Pre-K Programs
Serve 4-Year-Olds

These other pre-K programs are operated by a Mississippi public school district. Districts may offer six types of other public school pre-K programs, if they choose, categorized mainly by their funding source and its related restrictions, including Title I, local district, tuition-based, blended, hybrid, or externally funded programs.

Quick Resources

Pre-K Tax Credit for Individuals and Businesses

Are you interested in learning more about how you can receive a tax credit by donating to early learning collaboratives?

Mississippi Beginnings Curriculum Resources

The Research Supporting Mississippi Beginnings

Mississippi First created this resource to illustrate the research supporting Mississippi’s state-funded pre-K curriculum.

Mississippi Beginnings: Curriculum Guide

Mississippi First created this resource so educators and leaders can quickly access the necessary guides for instruction.

Latest News About Early Education

  • Fair Pay for Fair Work
    Editor’s Note: This post is one in an ongoing series of posts dedicated to early education policy in Mississippi. *** By Micayla Tatum I Director of Early Childhood Policy  A lack of wage parity is … Read more
  • We Raised The Rate: 2023 Pre-K Legislative Review
    By Micayla Tatum I Director of Early Childhood Policy  After four legislative sessions, we are excited to announce that our bill to permanently raise the per-pupil funding rate, HB 817, passed! The … Read more
  • Navigating a Winding Path: Earning an Early Childhood Credential
    Editor’s Note: This post is one in an ongoing series of posts dedicated to early education policy in Mississippi. *** By Micayla Tatum I Director of Early Childhood Policy  The educator pipeline crisis, which Mississippi … Read more

Our Research and Publications on Early Education

Check out our Publications page to see our extensive research and reports on early education in Mississippi.