Summer Start Gets High Marks

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"In 1982, kindergarten became a cornerstone of the Education Reform Act. In 2003, I want to take it to the next step," said Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in his State of the State speech Jan. 9.

Musgrove's proposed budget for the next fiscal year calls for 62 percent of the general fund to be used for education at all levels, from pre-kindergarten to college.

One of the key components, Summer Start, would bring children into the classroom for an extra two months before and two months after their kindergarten year.

"If the kids come earlier in the year, and stay longer, they have to retain a lot of what they've been taught. And I think as a whole as they go through school this gives them the foundation they need and they will just continue to be lifelong learners. I just think it will be a success," said Oakland Heights kindergarten teacher, Lydia Boutwell.

The extra four months of full day classes will cost the state around $5 million a year. However, costs could be reduced by less need for special education and remedial classes. It will also, the governor contends, lower the dropout rate and improve the skill of workers in East Mississippi, saving the government millions.

"I think that if the children could come to school earlier like that, it would probably reduce the number of them that need special classes because they would be getting the support and a lot more of what they need than sometimes in a regular school year," said Boutwell.

It's a program designed to provide children with an extra opportunity to learn basic skills earlier so that they are ready to move on to higher skill level activities during the regular kindergarten year.

Now it's up to the legislature to decide whether or not the plan will be enacted.