During the 2018 legislative session for Mississippi, both the House and Senate approved additional funding for early childhood education by way of MDE’s Early Learning Collaborative. Without an increase since 2016, the number of school districts funded by the grant program was capped at 14.
“With my legislative colleagues and because of a lot of support, I am proud to announce that Hattiesburg is now one of five new districts approved for the additional funding in the amount of $2.1 million – $700,000 across the three-year grant cycle,” said Representative Missy McGee. “The collaborative spirit of this grant lends a hand to the understanding that our children will only succeed with the help of everyone working together, and we are very proud to be a part of that.”
With the increase in funding, MDE opened a new round of applications with the intent to enroll new districts. Districts that boasted a collaborative program across a variety of early childhood education partners were encouraged to apply. Hattiesburg is now one of 19 school districts, throughout Mississippi, funded by the program.
Hornsby, federal programs director for the school district, stated that her team began working on the application in August 2018 with the creation of the Hattiesburg Early Learning Collaborative Council. Purposefully, they helped with guidance and feedback regarding the early childhood education needs of Hattiesburg’s children.
The council included representatives from The University of Southern Mississippi, William Carey, Families First, PRVO Headstart, Excel by 5, United Way of Southeast Mississippi, private childcare centers and retired early childhood educators.
“We are thrilled to be a recipient of the grant and the resources it will provide to the children of Hattiesburg,” said Hornsby. “Now, we immediately prepare for the program’s implementation in August.”
This funding will directly impact 329 children (per year in the grant cycle of 3) across the equivalent of 18 classrooms at Hattiesburg Public Schools, PRVO Headstart and additional private Pre-K providers. For the grant cycle, this equates to approximately 1200 children in Hattiesburg.
“It’s a great day to be a Hattiesburg Tiger,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Williams. “The overall purpose of this grant is to increase the effectiveness, consistently, of our four-year-old Pre-K programs [across a variety of providers] in order to better prepare students for kindergarten readiness and beyond. This will allow us to take our mission of educating all students to become productive members of a dynamic, global society one step farther.”
Together, the funding will support Early Learning Collaborative partners by providing:
- teachers and staff that meet the same educational requirements set by MDE for all classrooms;
- professional development for all staff on aligned curriculum, PreK standards, social/emotional development, etc;
- technology for staff and one-to-one technology for all 329 students;
- collaborative learning opportunities;
- additional student support such as a Pre-K counselor and EL teacher;
- behavioral support;
- identical resources/ materials across all classes and much more.
“Cultivating and equipping the next generation of Hattiesburg citizens begins in the earliest years. This $2.1 million in state funding for early childhood education will have an immediate positive impact on the Hattiesburg Public School District and pay long-term dividends for our entire community,” said Mayor Toby Barker. “We are grateful to our legislative delegation, our school district administration and the Mississippi Department of Education for making this investment happen.”
Applications for enrollment in the program will be available through all partners and online at www.hattiesburgpsd.com.