JACKSON, Miss. – (WCBI) Legislation to strengthen the reading skills of Mississippi children and build on early childhood education through public-private partnerships passed the Senate today.
Senate Bill 2347, sponsored by Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, requires third grade students to read at grade level before moving to the fourth grade in the 2014-15 school year. Currently, only 47 percent of Mississippi third-grade students read at grade level.
Senate Bill 2395, sponsored by Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Ocean Springs, provides financial support to an existing network of early childhood education classes statewide and adds additional classes through public-private partnerships. The program is voluntary.
Both bills head to the House for consideration.
“The Senate is looking at several ways to raise the bar on education to help students be more successful in the classroom and in life,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said.
“These bills will make a real difference in the quality of education in Mississippi and grow a stronger workforce for the future.”
Senate Bill 2347 requires third-grade students to read on a basic level before moving to the fourth grade. The bill requires screening for reading deficiencies to begin in kindergarten. Parents will be notified if their child is identified with a reading deficiency. Students will receive special intervention from the districts immediately upon identification.
Senate Bill 2395 provides matching funds to local early childhood education programs through school districts, private and parochial schools, private childcare centers, and Head Start. Communities that have participated in programs like Excel by 5, Mississippi Building Blocks, and other proven education programs will be given special consideration to receive state funds. Individuals and companies also may donate to local programs.
Roughly 85 percent of Mississippi’s four-year-old children participate in an early childhood education program. The bill establishes education guidelines for teacher qualifications and research-based curriculum for local programs that receive funding through the bill. The Department of Education will oversee the $8 million program.
“Through a collaborative early childhood education approach, we can support those communities that want prekindergarten and help those children become better, more successful students,’ Lt. Gov. Reeves said. “The program is voluntary for both communities and parents.”
The bill is supported by Mississippi First, Mississippi Early Childhood Association Executive Director Jeffrey Leffler, and the Gilmore Foundation’s Cathy Grace and Russell Bailey, as well as Chevron Corp., Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., C Spire Wireless, Mississippi Power, Entergy Mississippi, and the Mississippi Economic Council.