It’s Mississippi’s first use of state money to pay for prekindergarten classes.
The state Board of Education approved the grants Thursday.
The consortiums, chosen from among 30 applicants, expect to be able to serve least 1,200 children. The winners will be eligible to receive up to $8.5 million over the next three years, assuming the Legislature appropriates more money.
All of the groups include at least one school district, as well as other groups such as Head Start centers, private child care centers and foundations. The consortiums had to show a working relationship among a school district and other entities, evidence that local children were in need and the ability to help those children. Local communities must match the state money with an equal amount of private donations, federal money or other funds.
Trecina Green, a Department of Education employee who helped run the grant competition, said the applications that rose to the top demonstrated strong links between multiple groups.
“They had to have some collaboration going on already,” she said.
Green said the 11 winners all were awarded the total amounts they requested. Some of the money will be held over until the 2014-2015 budget year, meaning that grants can be fully funded over the next 30 months as long as the Legislature continues to allot $3 million each year. The program could be expanded if lawmakers put in more money, as supporters hope.
Lawmakers approved funding for the program last year in hopes that it would give a leg up to children who otherwise might be ill-prepared for kindergarten.
“We’re optimistic that we’ll see a very positive impact to put our students on the path to success,” state Deputy Superintendent Kim Benton said. “We know the links with literacy and other foundation skills that are fundamental to give all our children equal footing.”
As part of the effort, programs will have to evaluate children’s progress, including giving them a kindergarten readiness assessment. Benton said the state hopes to choose such an assessment early next year.
The group in line for the most money over the next three years, nearly $1.5 million, is the Corinth-Alcorn Prentiss Early Learning Collaborative. There, the Corinth, Alcorn County and Prentiss County school districts have teamed up with two Head Start centers and five private child care centers.
Corinth Superintendent Lee Childress said the money will allow Alcorn County to add a third prekindergarten class and allow Prentiss County to start its first. The group will also hire a master teacher to coach instructors at the public school, Head Start and private sites, and invest in books, supplies and equipment to improve a number of the classrooms.
The Corinth district itself, which has five prekindergarten classrooms, won’t be getting any direct funding for more teachers. In effect, it’s allowing its existing investment to be used to match the state money to mostly benefit others.
“We’re spreading the wealth to help promote early childhood education in this three-county area because we think it’s that important,” Childress said.
Mississippi preschool grant winners
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Board of Education granted money Thursday to 11 groups to expand preschool classes for four-year-olds. Here’s a look at the winners and how much each will receive in the first six months of the program:
— Clarke County Early Learning Partnership: $172,000 to a group including the Quitman School District and a Head Start center
— Coahoma County Pre-K Collaborative Initiative: $327,554 to a group including the Clarksdale School District, Coahoma County School District, local Head Start centers, St. Elizabeth Catholic School and two child care centers.
— Corinth-Alcorn Prentiss Early Learning Collaborative: $433,225 to a group including the Corinth School District, Alcorn County School District, Prentiss County School District, two Head Start centers and five private child care centers.
— DeSoto County Early Learning Collaborative: $54,348 to a group including the DeSoto County School District, local libraries, Mississippi National Institute for School Leaders, Northwest Mississippi Community College, DeSoto County Career and Technology Center, a Head Start center and others.
— Gilmore Early Learning Initiative Collaborative: $174,210 to a group including the Gilmore Foundation, Amory School District, Monroe County School District, local Head Start centers, private child care centers, Region III Mental Health Center, Mississippi State University T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability and Itawamba Community College.
— Lamar County Early Learning Collaborative: $105,320 to a group including the Lamar County School District, local Head Start centers and the University of Southern Mississippi.
— McComb Community Collaborative for Early Learning Success: $462,250 to a group including the McComb School District, McComb Early Childhood Foundation, local Head Start centers, and private child care centers.
— Petal Early Learning Collaborative: $107,500 to a group including the Petal School District and a local Head Start center.
— Picayune School District: $43,000 to a group including the Picayune School District and the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation.
— Sunflower County Early Learning Collaborative: $82,616 to a group including the Indianola School District, Sunflower County School District, local Head Start centers, six private child care centers and the Connected Branches Organization.
— Tallahatchie Early Learning Alliance: $110,000 to a group including the East Tallahatchie School District, West Tallahatchie School District, local Head Start centers and the Rock River Foundation.