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State-funded prekindergarten program moves forward

JACKSON — The Mississippi House has passed a bill to create Mississippi’s first state-funded prekindergarten program, in limited form.

House Bill 781 would create a voluntary program for 4-year-olds in some parts of the state. A similar Senate bill passed last week.

Both bills call for consortiums to be set up between child care centers, public and private schools, and Head Start programs to apply for funding. Successful applicants would adopt state-approved early learning standards aimed at helping children build motor skills, language, and social and emotional development, among other skills. The program would start by 2014-2015.

The new funding would open up slots in existing programs and give consortiums the option of creating new programs.

The two chambers have to agree on a single bill before anything goes to the governor.

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