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Wiggins makes visit to Early Head Start

State Senator for District 52 Brice Wiggins from Jackson County made a visit to one of the first Early Head Start facilities his worked helped fund, Picayune’s.

Early Head Start is a program that provides early learning opportunities to families who qualify. Picayune’s Early Head Start program was one of the first 11 to be established in Mississippi. The collaborate was established to fill the gap between Early Head Start and Kindergarten.

During his tour, Wiggins stopped by several early learning collaborative classrooms housed at South Side Lower Elementary.

Initially the state funding was $3 million for eight collaboratives. As success rates continue to show the program works, Wiggins said he has worked with his fellow lawmakers to double the funding. With the doubling of state funding for such projects to $16 million starting in July of this year, Wiggins hopes more programs will be established and existing ones can be expanded.

Picayune School District Superintendent Dean Shaw said that every child who goes through the Early Head Start collaborate program passes their third grade reading test. Wiggins agreed, saying that children who receive education opportunities prior to kindergarten enter that grade better prepared, a skillset that translates through subsequent grades.

For the most part, collaboratives are run by the local Early Head Start program, just like in Picayune. Wiggins said each program director has full control of how the funding is spent and how the program operates.

Any local donations to the program are matched by the state up to $1 million. Early Head Start Director Dr. Pam Thomas said a local health care provider has been donating more and more funding each year. Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation also donates about $500,000 annually, Thomas said.