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State Board of Education approves five new early learning collaboratives to serve pre-K 4-year-olds

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) voted Jan. 20, to add five new early learning collaboratives (ELC) to the current list of 18 to provide high-quality early childhood education pre-K programs to 4-year-old students.

The ELC expansion is made possible by $6.3 million in state funds. State funding continues to increase for the ELC program with $8 million in 2020-21 and $16 million for 2021-22, which brings the total appropriation to $55.5 million since the 2014-15 school year.

The new ELCs are:

  • Brookhaven Early Learning Collaborative
  • Kosciusko Early Learning Collaborative
  • Rankin County Early Learning Collaborative
  • Scott Early Learning Collaborative
  • South Panola Early Learning Collaborative

The five new ELCs will serve 840 pre-K 4-year-olds in eight new classrooms and 34 existing classrooms. Once additional ELCs are added with this round of funding, up to 3,220 new pre-K 4-year-olds will be served, bringing the total number of ELC students to more than 6,000.

MDE’s Office of Early Childhood oversees the ELC program and issued the request for proposals for the newest ELCs Oct. 1, 2021, and accepted applications through Nov. 5, 2021. The five applicants that gained the required points to qualify for the interview round were submitted for the SBE’s final approval.

An additional funding opportunity for school districts, local Head Starts, licensed childcare centers and private or parochial schools to join the ELC program will be advertised in a few weeks at mdek12.org/PN/RFP.

The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 established the ELC program, which provides funding to local communities to establish, expand, support and facilitate the successful implementation of quality pre-K early childhood education and development services.

The main goal of establishing ELCs is to better prepare preschoolers for kindergarten. In 2019, pre-K students in the state’s ELCs maintained gains on the pre-kindergarten readiness assessment. Among ELC students, 76.9% met the end-of-year target score, compared to 69.4% of students in other public pre-K classrooms, which included a variety of class configurations, including Title I, self-contained special education and other school district pre-K programs.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) first recognized Mississippi for its ELC program in 2015 as one of only five states that met all 10 of its quality standards. In 2021, NIEER recognized Mississippi as one of only six states that met all quality standards for pre-K.

“When early learning collaboratives increase in Mississippi, it means more of our state’s preschoolers will have access to a quality early childhood education,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Academic and developmental success begin early on, and I’m thankful state lawmakers recognize the need to continually invest in this program.”

Find all MDE news releases at mdek12.org/news.

MageeNews.com is an online news source serving Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.

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