Senator from Pascagoula pushes for pre-K bill to become law

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The governor has less than two weeks to sign or veto a bill to launch the first ever state funded Pre-Kindergarten program. The bill would provide $3 million in matching funds for early childhood education in school districts and even Head Start. But there are critics lobbying the governor to veto it.

The author of the bill is praying it makes it to the finish line.

Senator Brice Wiggins said the first five years of a child's life are critical. He believes if the governor signs off on Pre-K education funding, it will put more kids on the road to success.

"They don't just need to be babysat, they need to be learning. If it is not going to happen at home or if they are not at home, then where they are, we need to get them to be ready for kindergarten."

Wiggins is the bill's author. If it becomes law, child care centers and schools will have to meet certain requirements such as researched based curriculum and federal nutrition guidelines to qualify for state funding.

"We will match what you need to have, so it is matching funds. It is almost like a grant."

But some argue against the state spending millions of tax dollars for a four-year-old to go to class.

"Their argument is children should be home with their parents. The reality in Mississippi is 85 percent of children are with someone other than their parent, either in Head Start or in private childcare," said Wiggins.

Critics worry not all childcare centers can meet the strict requirements, and the neediest children could miss out on the educational opportunity.

"Written into the bill are low performing areas constitute community need, and so they will be looked at in a higher level," said Wiggins.

Wiggins also points out the Pre-K Program will not be mandatory.

"If people don't want to they don't have to, which is an important issue," Wiggins said.

As the senator awaits the governor's signature, he said he'll keep pushing for education reform.

"I think April 25 is the deadline he has to sign it, so we are optimistic he is going to do that and not do a veto."

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