Summit on early-childhood education offers reasons why it

Published 11:52 am Sunday, September 30, 2012

Leading advocates and nationally known early-childhood educators from Northeast Mississippi offered compelling evidence last week for pre-K education’s necessity.

At an Early Childhood Summit in Tupelo, co-sponsored by CREATE Foundation and the Early Childhood Institute at Mississippi State University, six advocates and professionals presented persuasive facts in support of pre-K’s effectiveness – and the consequences of not having it.

Mississippi is the only southern state that doesn’t have some form of state-funded, statewide pre-K education — by consensus a critical element in stimulating and achieving intellectual and emotional development in children from birth to age 5 and in reaping economic benefits in the long term.

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The summit was not a venue for people with no strong connections telling Mississippians what’s best for our youngest children.

Steve Suitts, vice president of the Southern Education Foundation in Atlanta and whose family is from Tishomingo County, offered compelling statistical measures over the long term that pre-K education makes dramatic differences in children’s success. …

Suitts said elected officials sometimes hesitate about funding pre-K because the full impact is measured long term. Many politically sensitive state funding issues hinge on quick returns.

Cathy Grace, a Tupelo resident who has served at the local, state and national levels in roles supporting pre-K development, is director of early childhood education for Gilmore Foundation’s remarkable pre-K program in Monroe County. In passionate, informed remarks, Grace told the summit, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Mississippi tragically lacks the leadership will to find the way for pre-K statewide learning.