Building Blocks advocates are requesting $5 million in state funding. Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO who in 2000 donated $100 million to the state to help ensure elementary students learn to read and more recently has touted the Mississippi Building Blocks program, said early childhood education is essential to the state’s improvement in its education attainment level.
Mississippi is currently the only Southern state not to spend any state funds on early childhood education. Florida, which is the example many Mississippi legislative leaders cite on such issues as school choice and school accountability, guarantees access to early childhood education for all children and limits class sizes in its Constitution.
Barksdale said it would cost $250 million annually to add another grade to the public schools. He said the Building Blocks program could be enacted statewide for at least $100 million less.
The budget proposal developed by the legislative leadership does not include any funds for early childhood education, but Laura Hipp, a spokeswoman for Reeves, said, “The Senate Appropriations Committee will review several ideas.”
Overall, look for education to be a hot topic for the upcoming three-month legislative session.
Reeves said earlier this year, “I have a message for people in both parties who are scared of the future of education reform – buckle your seat belts. Reform is coming to Mississippi.”