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Millions of Mississippi Lottery dollars benefiting education, including Pre-K

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 5:16 PM CDT
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PICAYUNE, Miss. (WLOX) - When you buy a Mississippi Lottery ticket, you’re helping two things: Mississippi Department of Transportation projects and the Mississippi Department of Education. Whether or not you’re a winner, all proceeds from Powerball, scratch-offs, and Mega Millions go into Mississippi classrooms from the Education Enhancement Fund.

“Now that we have the lottery, I think it will increase the number of Pre-K spots throughout the state of Mississippi,” said Pamela Thomas, Early Childhood Program Director in the Picayune School District.

Some of that money pays for Early Learning Collaboratives that are state-funded, like the only one in South Mississippi at South Side Lower Elementary in Picayune. In 2013, the district joined in with the collaborative and now serves nearly 400 children.

“We are one of 11 school districts who are implanting the early collaborative through the State Department of Education,” said Thomas.

There are several early learning programs across the state, but only 18 are state-funded.

“We have 15 early Head Start classrooms within our school district so the school district is actually serving children from birth up to 12th grade,” said Thomas.

Thomas said overall, right now the state serves about 3,000 children and many reside in the Picayune School District. But with additional funding, Thomas believes that number will double.

“I think it will open up more opportunities for more children who are between the ages of three and four who probably do not meet income eligibility for the Head Start program,” said Thomas.

State-funded classrooms operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, as for federal, there is an income requirement.

“I believe that the earlier children receive early childhood education on the front end, I think on the back end you will save,” Thomas said. “I say if we invest in all of our young children, I think we will see a tremendous impact on them.”

Registration for the early learning is underway and there is a waiting list.

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