MOSELLE, Miss. (WDAM) - If you donated to your local Early Learning Collaborative pre-K program, your dollars will help make a big difference to the little minds in our state.
“Collaboratives have collected $3.2 million dollars in tax credit,” said Dr. Jill Dent said, director of the Office of Early Childhood at the Mississippi Department of Education.
Dent said Mississippi’s Early Learning pre-K programs are not only state-funded but also allow people or businesses to donate to collaboratives.
“They can donate funds that they will owe in state taxes and they can give that to the collaboratives, and then they can subtract that from their tax bills to the state each year,” Dent said.
Dent said, in turn, the 18 Early Learning Collaborative pre-K programs in our state get a portion of that $3.2 million to pay for things state funds don’t cover. Lamar County School District Superintendent Steven Hampton can think of one thing the funds can help with.
“As we emerge out of this COVID time, we can actually get back to taking our pre-k students on field trips,” Hampton said.
Hampton said his district’s pre-K program received a little more than $619,000 in tax credit funds.
“This is about an increase of $400,000 over last year, which is a huge increase,” Hampton said. “We just want to appreciate everyone who participated from all the local businesses and statewide businesses and from our individuals.”
Hampton said this money means Lamar County’s pre-K program can cut down the waiting list and serve more kids.
“Right now, we are serving 240 pre-K students in our district through the collaborative, and we are going to expand that to 280, which will be two more classrooms in our district,” Hampton said.
Lamar County is one of four Early Learning Collaboratives in the Pine Belt. Marion County also has a program. Petal’s pre-K program received $750,000 in tax credit funds, and Hattiesburg’s collaborative received $350,000.
Dent said the Early Learning Collaboratives statewide are educating 3,000 pre-K students in reading and other instruction.
“We’ve had really high success rate with our pre-K collaboratives,” Dent said. “Our children are ready when they go to kindergarten, and so we are really excited about the opportunity that these tax credits are giving our children.”
Hampton added Lamar County’s Early Learning Collaborative will be able to do more for the local child care centers it already supports with the tax credit funds.
WDAM reached out to Marion County School District to find out how much its collaborative received in tax credit funds, but we did not hear back from the district.