Mississippi has for too long been last in line –in educational results. And too often first in line – in incarceration rates, teen pregnancy, obesity, infant and child mortality, children living in poverty and with single parents…the list is long.
What are we doing about it?
First, we are paying attention to the wealth of research and to common sense as well. If we want to change outcomes, we need to start with our smallest citizens. Ask us; we can point you to volumes of papers that demonstrate that investments in early childhood development far outweigh the return earned in any other kind of economic development investment. When children form successful early relationships, when their brains are stimulated and they learn through following their own curiosity with a teacher who knows how to teach them, their success rate in school is higher, the drop out rate is lower, college completion is higher, employment retention greater at better jobs, tax revenues higher, social costs lower, crime rates fall, and criminal justice and prison costs fall. A magic bullet? No. A great improvement? Yes.
You did not answer yet.
True. Grenada County, population roughly 21,000, has 13 full time licensed child care centers. Most operate 12 hour days and charge about $80 a week. Do the math. As the demands of quality increase, centers have to pay for more teacher training, face teacher turnover and higher costs. At the same time, tuition rates cannot increase as market rates are capped by the reimbursement rate at which the State subsidizes childcare for some children, whether the center receives such reimbursement income or not. Add to that the fact that only 65% of our centers’ capacity was being used per the 2010 census, one can see the pressure they face. One more statistic: of the 1703 children under 5 in Grenada County in 2010, only about 45% were enrolled in any center, so there is plenty of room for growth in enrollment.
Still not an answer?
I am getting there. On October 17, 2012, a meeting of the various technical assistance agencies in the state was held in Grenada, along with the Department of Health, the 100 Black Men of Grenada, and Economic Development District, and GCF. We did not want to hear any more about other people’s pilots programs but instead wanted to be our own. Were the agencies in, or out? All were in, and the Mississippi Children’s Collaborative was born.
OK, so you have a name. Not an answer. My foot is tapping –
Right. What is it? By year end 2012, GCF had declared its intention to make Grenada a center of excellence in early childhood development in the next three years, working through Mississippi Children’s Collaborative. During January, 2013, 9 of the 13 full time centers agreed to press forward to achieve 4 Stars in the Mississippi Quality Stars program as fast as possible, with suuport from GCF and the various partners, including most significantly Halle Ricketts of the Health Department and Louise Davis of MSCCR&R. And when we get all of them there, we think we will be the only county in the country to have achieved that distinction. Which will have many benefits for our county, and we hope can serve as a model for many other counties.
That is not enough? OK.
- Deborah Bailey and Theresa Procella, owner and director of Lake City Kids are participating in the Implementation Committee of the statewide ECE Share Services Program being introduced by the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation, funded by the Phil Hardin Foundation, and powered by ECESharedResources.org.
- With support from Committee for Economic Development (CED.org) we are hard at work developing brochures and websites for Grenada centers and helping them with marketing plans and enrollment management.
- Through MSCCR&R, we have access to the latest curricular tools and are serving as a testing area for various new tools.
- The Department of Health is developing a pilot program with us to deliver social and health services through the childcare centers to the children and their families.
- GCF’s Pat Woods and Deborah Bailey have completed the training to allow GCF to serve as the sponsoring agency for any child care center who wants to participate on the Child and Adult Care Food Program. This may seem like the height of insanity, but the program is excellent and can save centers many thousands of dollars. In fact, we plan to blog about how two women learned all about the USDA regulations, the Office of Child Nutrition, the CACFP, credible meals, meal patterns, allowable portion sizes for different age groups, what constitutes a vegetable —- and have alot of fun with it.
This video says it all.
Now you are getting greedy. Watch this space.