The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 12/16/8

A planned pilot early childhood education initiative, designed to provide a roadmap for a statewide program, got a big boost Monday with $4.6 million in donations from the private sector.

Officials hope to kick off the Mississippi Building Blocks program, at a cost of $10.5 million, in August 2009 at about 50 child care centers across the state.

If the pre-kindergarten program is successful, supporters hope to obtain state funding after three years to expand it across Mississippi.

On Monday, during an early childhood education summit in Jackson sponsored by business groups, it was announced that $4.6 million had been raised for the pilot project.

Jim Barksdale, a Mississippi native and former chief executive officer of Netscape Communications, committed $3 million toward toward the project. The Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian donated $600,000 while the Mississippi Power Co. kicked in another $1 million.