Miss. going after $50 million for Pre-K funding

Published: Aug. 15, 2011 at 8:10 PM CDT|Updated: Feb. 18, 2013 at 10:00 PM CST
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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - While many educators say you can't put a price on education; in this case, you can and it's $50 million.

That's how much Mississippi could be on the receiving end of.

"To me $50 million could really transform the way we look at education and some of those results we see later on in the lives of children," said Laurie Smith.

It's part of a national competition to secure federal funding for early childhood education and to people like Smith, executive director of Mississippi Building Blocks, it's a chance to create a Pre-K system that's long overdue.

"We can express a strong need for this type of funding to help build a system which is truly what they want to have done in the grant so I think we're the perfect type of state to apply," Smith said.

Since Mississippi doesn't have a program already in place, state leaders are hoping to use existing efforts as an educational springboard.

"Tying early childhood in to k through 12 is critical," said Annjo Lemons, the executive director of the state's Early Childhood Advisory Council.

Lemons says if the Mississippi is chosen, the grant would last for four years and once it's up, the state would have to make sure the system could sustain, in what she says are the most important educational years.

"Everything that happens before the age of five really plays a huge part in a child's success," Lemons said.

The grant would help give better access to more low income children and families while improving the quality of childcare centers and the educational staff inside them, all in an effort to put Mississippi's children on a better educational path.

"The quality of childcare really can affect the trajectory of a child's life," Smith said.

More than 30 states have already expressed an interest in applying for the grant, which will be handed out by the end of the year.

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