Because Mississippi has no state-funded pre-kindergarten program, it has been labeled part of the "dirty dozen" by a national early childhood organization.
The National Institute of Early Education Research last week published the State of Preschool: 2004 State Preschool Yearbook, which outlined the commitment states made to early childhood programs.
W. Steven Barnett of Rutgers University, who is the director of the institute, said, "The lack of funding in these 12 states is particularly disturbing and unwise, given that few other state expenditures are so important to our children's future or return so much on the state's investment."
Mississippi parents looking for a good preschool can pick from a hodgepodge of federally funded Head Starts, a handful of public school programs or private child-care facilities.
But even with these options, an estimated 40,700 children ages three to five are without an organized preschool choice because available programs are full.
Gov. Haley Barbour has listed early childhood as one of the issues he wants to include in a package of education reforms for lawmakers to consider in 2005. He is expected to unveil his plans in the coming weeks.
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