Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn today announced their support for legislation to aid the existing network of early childhood education classes statewide and add additional classes through public-private partnerships.

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.

“The earlier a child can say his ABCs, pick up a book, and name his colors – the better that child will perform when he starts kindergarten or first grade,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said. “Through a collaborative approach to early childhood education, we can support those communities that want prekindergarten and help those children become better, more successful students.”

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.

“We are bringing forward an educational package this session that includes early childhood education as one of the factors that improves the learning of the students,” Speaker Gunn said. “I’m supportive of doing what needs to be done to improve education in Mississippi.”

Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Ocean Springs, sponsored Senate Bill 2395, which establishes the collaborative framework to support early childhood education programs. Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, introduced a similar measure, House Bill 781.

Reeves and Gunn were joined today by representatives from Mississippi First, Mississippi Early Childhood Association Executive Director Jeffrey Leffler, and the Gilmore Foundation’s Cathy Grace and Russell Bailey, as well as representatives from Chevron Corp., Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., C Spire Wireless, Mississippi Power, Entergy Mississippi, and the Mississippi Economic Council. Superintendents from Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, Greenville and Clarksdale also attended.