Retired military generals push lawmakers for early childhood edu - - The News for South Mississippi

Retired military generals push lawmakers for early childhood education

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

As lawmakers make final adjustments to education packages at the capitol, three of Mississippi's military leaders are asking they pay close attention to what's currently lacking.

"Early childhood education has shown it can provide a foundation in which to build upon," said Retired Brigadier General Robert Crear of the U.S. Army.

Currently Mississippi is the only state in the South without a state funded Pre-K system. Because of that, the general's brought their push straight to lawmakers to get behind legislation that would phase-in a Pre-K system.

They say not having early childhood education is not only harming student lives and the state economy but also the nation's military.

"In the interest of raising upcoming generations who are mentally, physically and morally prepared to succeed in Mississippi, we must extend the effort and funding to ensure high quality leaning is available in our state," said Retired Major General Erik Hearon of the U.S. Air Force.

The Department of Defense put out a study showing 75 percent of 17 to 24 year olds nationwide can't join the military.

"That is an alarming percentage to me," said Retired Brigadier General Roger Shields of the U.S. Army.

The primary reason is education. The generals say it's time Mississippi make a move to improve the quality of student achievement.

"We are in an extraordinary moment here in Mississippi," said Hearon. "We can leave behind our status as being the only state in the South that does not have a state supported early childhood education or we can keep doing the same thing we've been doing and we'll probably keep getting the same results."

The governor is already asking lawmakers for $3 million in new state funding for Mississippi Building Blocks. If lawmakers can agree on additional legislation, that could mean even more money.

The generals say that's money well spent.

"Early education programs cut crime, welfare and other costs so much that they return society as much as $16 for every $1 invested," said Crear. "This is a return on investment that we cannot afford to overlook in today's tight budgets."

The legislation is currently waiting on negotiations between the house and senate. The chambers have different positions on how much funding should be spent.

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