Board OKs pre-K grants

djournal-Education_apple_booksBy Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

JACKSON – Mississippi’s first public funds for pre-K education were officially awarded on Thursday, when the state Board of Education approved grants to 11 early-learning collaborative groups.

Among the winners were the Monroe County Gilmore Early Learning Initiative Collaborative and the Corinth-Alcorn Prentiss Early Learning Collaborative. Both will use grants to add 4-year-olds to programs and to boost quality.

“We were impressed by the high level of creativity and innovation that went into developing these quality early childhood education programs,” said board chairman Wayne Gann in a news release.

Other grant winners included groups from Clarke County, Coahoma County, DeSoto County, Lamar County, McComb, Petal, Picayune, Sunflower County and Tallahatchie County.

The money was awarded under the Mississippi Early Learning Collaborative Act, which the Legislature passed this year. It provides funds to partnerships between public school districts, Head Start facilities and private child care centers. It intends to compel programs to work together.

The Corinth-Alcorn-Prentiss partnership includes the Corinth, Alcorn County and Prentiss County school districts, two Head Start facilities and five private child care facilities. The Gilmore collaborative includes the Gilmore Early Learning Initiative, the Monroe County and Amory school districts, Head Start centers, private centers and Itawamba Community College.

The 11 grants funded Thursday total about $2 million to be rewarded between January and June 2014. They provide $3.1 million over two years – between June 2014 and June 2016, assuming the Legislature continues to provide funds.

The state appropriated $3 million – plus $3 million in tax breaks – during the initial year. Advocates have called for the state to expand the funding.

The Mississippi Department of Education received 30 applications, and 18 groups were chosen for interviews.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com