Organization pushes for pre-K system; asking for state money

Published: Oct. 16, 2012 at 6:49 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 16, 2012 at 7:59 PM CDT
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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - For the last three years Mississippi Building Blocks, through a pilot program, has served hundreds of childcare center classrooms across the state. The goal is make sure pre-K kids are ready to transition to the K through 12 system.

Now in its fourth year of private service to childcare centers, results from previous years show those children, who were part of the program, are far better off when they step into the classroom.

"When a child is better prepared when they enter kindergarten, they're going to be more successful," said Entergy president and CEO Haley Fisackerly.

"It's a private sector funded approach to testing a model that can then be adopted by the public sector," said Mississippi Economic Council President Blake Wilson.

To place it in the public sector and make it a statewide program, it'll take state money. Building Blocks will be asking lawmakers for $5 million. At an expected $2,000 dollars per child, that money would serve 2,500 kids across the state.

"This is a critical program, proven time and time again to be of great value to giving our youth

a jump start on a good education and a good future," said Major General Erik Hearon with Mission Readiness.

"With the expansion we will expand into more counties and some more centers and we do have a waiting list of centers that have been waiting to receive services from MBB," said MBB interim executive director April May.

Currently, at the direction of the state, the program is being carried by about $7 million in private fund raising money. That money is about to run out and if lawmakers are unable to come up with the money requested, Building Blocks will be forced to end the program. Supporters say that would be a blow to Mississippi's long term future.

"It is without question that these children are better prepared for kindergarten which means they're better prepared to go on to school life ahead of them which means they're better prepared to graduate from high school which means they're better prepared to be contributing citizens of this state, contributing billions of dollars in revenue," said Barksdale management Corporation chairman and president Jim Barksdale.

Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves says he is impressed by the results and supports expanding the program to include more children, but adds it's too early in the budget process to make a determination. Reeves says the legislature will take a look at the funding request during the next session.

Governor Bryant meanwhile, says he will issue his executive budget recommendation in November.

Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved.