Our Work in Pre-K

Early education is a founding policy area for Mississippi First. Mississippi First is proud to have written the Early Learning Collaborative Act, which established state-funded pre-K in Mississippi. Now, we lead the effort to expand the program.

In 2013, passing both the House and the Senate with over 80% of the vote, the pre-K law was the most popular education effort in many years. That year, the legislature appropriated $3 million for the program, the first-ever state investment in pre-K.

Following the passing of the law, in December 2013, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) selected the first 11 Early Learning Collaboratives (ELCs) from across the state. For almost a decade, Mississippi First has continued to advocate to increase funding in order to maintain quality and grow the program. With each legislative funding increase, the number of impacted communities has grown. During the 2021-2022 school year, 16% of Mississippi four-year-olds (roughly 6,080 children) will have access to an ELC seat.

In 2021, 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. 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!

Pre-K Publications

Since 2010, we have published a variety of reports, one-pagers, and resources to educate stakeholders about pre-K in Mississippi.

Types of Pre-K

Mississippi has four main types of center-based pre-K programs for four-year-olds. We create a printout to explain these different programs.

The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013

The Early Learning Collaborative Act established state pre-K programs, known as “Early Learning Collaboratives,” or ELCs. All collaboratives are overseen by the Mississippi Department of Education, even though individual providers may also have other oversight agencies.


Collaboratives have a strong record of growing their students to kindergarten readiness. The spring 2019 statewide average score of pre-K collaborative students on the Mississippi kindergarten readiness assessment was 575, above the fall kindergarten-entry “readiness” score of 530, indicating that, on average, collaborative students are ready for kindergarten. See the most recent report here.

Pre-K Tax Credit

Individuals or corporations 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.