Dept. of education requests pre-k pilot program and full MAEP fu - - The News for South Mississippi

Dept. of education requests pre-k pilot program and full MAEP funding

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Its budget accounts for the largest chunk of state spending and Wednesday, the Department of Education laid out its request for the next budget year, a total just more than $2.3 billion.

Most of that money would filter down to school districts across the state. In the request is an additional $300.6 million to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Interim state superintendent of education, Dr. Lynn House says that's because of years of under funding

"It's always going to be are we catching up or are we not catching up," said House.

Also in the budget request is an additional $2.5 million to be used for an early childhood education pilot program. House says the pre-K pilot would be placed in areas stricken by poverty.

"These grants would be for those districts that are serving those children who really need an opportunity to have additional educational related experiences," said House.

House hopes a pilot program would lead to an eventual statewide program supported by the legislature. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, an advocate for education reform, says a pre-K program would certainly benefit the state, but the money just many not be there to support it.

"As we increase funding where are those priorities? Is it in the pilot program for pre-K, is it in more monies for MAEP or is it some combination thereof? Those decisions are yet to be made but those are the kids of discussions we're going to be having," said Reeves.

Before dumping money into a pre-K pilot program, Reeves says something needs to be done with the current K-12 system.

"We're not doing as good as we need to do in the system that we currently have, so our kindergarten through twelfth grade, we've got a lot of room for improvement there," said Reeves.

As the budget committee takes the request into consideration, House says she'll remain hopeful that Mississippi will finally be able to educate children under the age of five.

"I think what it can do for us is let us know what works and what doesn't work. That's the point of a pilot," said House.

During the budget hearing republican senator and committee member Terry Brown of Columbus suggested getting rid of MAEP all together to eliminate the substantial cost.

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