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Mississippi recognized as one of top...

Mississippi recognized as one of top five states for high-quality pre-K

By: Anne Summerhays - May 19, 2023

The report from the National Institute for Early Education Research noted that Mississippi met 10 of 10 quality standard benchmarks.

Each year, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) releases a report that tracks state-by-state preschool enrollment, funding, and policies. In the State of Preschool 2022 report, Mississippi is recognized as one of only five states whose state-funded pre-K program meets all 10 quality standards for early childhood education.

According to the report, during the 2021-2022 school year, Mississippi preschool enrolled 2,807 children, an increase of 80 from the prior year, as the program began to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, state spending totaled $8,000,000, with an additional $829,003 in federal recovery funds to support the program, up $466,820 (6%), adjusted for inflation, since last year. State spending per child – including federal recovery funds – equaled $3,145 in 2021-2022, up $79 from 2020-2021, adjusted for inflation.

Mississippi met 10 of 10 quality standards benchmarks.

Interim State Superintendent of Education Mike Kent said Mississippi continues to be a national leader in early childhood education because of the quality of its Early Learning Collaborative program.

“Increased access to high-quality early childhood education has been a major factor in Mississippi’s rising student achievement,” Kent stated.

W. Steven Barnett Ph.D., NIEER’s senior co-director, stated that for the first time in decades, new state commitments to voluntary preschool for all give hope that the United States might take a giant step forward.

“If these states make good on their newly promised investments in preschool for all they will advance early education opportunities dramatically,” said Barnett. “We praise the work being done in Mississippi to expand preschool access and increase funding, including substantial funding to plan preschool expansion and new efforts for preschool programs in school settings. The state should continue investing in preschool and commit to access for all children while maintaining high standards for quality. Mississippi’s young children deserve it.”

During the 2021-2022 school year, the Mississippi Legislature provided an additional $8 million in planning grants for ELCs to prepare to open 2,900 more seats during the 2022-2023 school year.

“This expansion continued during the 2022-2023 school year, with another $8 million for additional planning grants to open 3,040 seats more during the 2023-2024 school year. Preschool enrollment should triple by the 2023-2024 school year and state funding will equal $24 million. Additionally, during the 2022 legislative session $20 million was appropriated to fund additional preschool programs in school settings, in the State Invested Pre-K (SIP) Program,” the report stated.

Mississippi’s 2022 national rankings included:

  • Enrollment at age 4: 37th (8%)
  • Enrollment at age 3: None served
  • State spending per child: 41st ($3,145)
  • All-reported spending per child: 23rd ($7,958)

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said Mississippi’s ranking is “amazing news,” adding that he would be lying if he said he was surprised by the news because improving education has been one of his top priorities since being Lieutenant Governor.

“We’ve raised teacher pay by over $6,000, we’ve implemented conservative reforms, and we’ve upheld rigorous standards. As a result of that, Mississippi kids are learning more than ever before, and the nation is noticing,” Governor Reeves said. “Today’s report proves that Mississippi is a leader in early childhood education. Thank you to all of Mississippi’s parents and teachers who continue to push Mississippi’s education system to new heights!”

Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann said in four short years, the state has added almost 5,500 seats in high quality early learning collaboratives for four-year-old children.

“This means they will start the foundation of learning earlier and on more solid footing – a great investment in Mississippi,” Lt. Governor Hosemann stated.

State Representative Richard Bennett, House Education Chairman, said that it has been a priority for the Legislature as a whole to continue to add to Mississippi’s Pre-K program, but to do it in a way that makes sure it has an impact.

“I believe that’s what we’ve done,” Rep. Bennett said. “I think it’s so important for us to keep growing this program and we’ve been able to do that with EFF funds and those EFF funds have grown because of the lottery also. So, I just want to make sure that we continue to move in that direction, but to do it in a quality way.”

Bennett said he couldn’t say enough about the local districts, too, that have stepped in with the collaboratives, such as Head Start and the other Pre-K programs.

“I think it has really, really made a difference in education for Mississippi,” Bennett continued.

Senate Education Chairman Dennis DeBar agreed.

“Research shows that when our kids start their educational careers in high quality early education programs, they are more likely to be successful,” said State Senator DeBar. “I’m proud of our efforts to ensure there are more opportunities for Mississippi children to participate in high quality early education programs.”

You can view the full report below.
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: