2007 Regular Session
To: Education; Appropriations
By: Senator(s) Chaney
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 37-21-51, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ENACT "THE EARLY LEARNING COLLABORATIVE ACT OF 2007," TO AUTHORIZE AND DIRECT THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES TO IMPLEMENT A VOLUNTARY EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION GRANT PROGRAM BY SUBCONTRACTING WITH HEAD START, LICENSED CHILD CARE CENTERS AND LICENSED PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SCHOOL PREKINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS, TO PROVIDE FOR THE ALLOCATION OF FUNDS, TO PROVIDE A GRANT APPLICATION PROCESS, TO PROVIDE FOR A GRANT APPLICATION OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, TO PROVIDE CERTAIN CONDITIONS ON APPROVED PROGRAMS, AND TO PROVIDE THAT THE GRANTS ARE SUBJECT TO LEGISLATIVE APPROPRIATION; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 37-21-51, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
37-21-51. (1) As used in Sections 37-21-51 through 37-21-55, the term "preschool or prekindergarten children" means any children who have not entered kindergarten.
(2) To ensure that all children have access to quality early childhood education and development services, the Legislature finds and declares the following:
(a) Parents have the primary duty to educate their young preschool children;
(b) The State of Mississippi can assist and educate parents in their role as the primary caregivers and educators of young preschool children; and
(c) There is a need to explore innovative approaches and strategies for aiding parents and families in the education and development of young preschool children.
(3) (a) This subsection shall be known and may be cited as the "Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2007."
(b) The Mississippi Department of Human Services shall implement a voluntary early care and education grant program, which shall be a collaboration among the entities providing prekindergarten programs including Head Start, licensed child care facilities and licensed public, parochial and private school prekindergarten programs. Enrollment in the preschool or prekindergarten program shall be coordinated with the Head Start agencies in the local areas and shall not be permitted to cause a reduction in children served by the Head Start program. Under this program, eligible entities may submit an application for funds to (i) defray the cost of additional teaching staff, appropriate educational materials and equipment and to improve the quality of educational experiences offered to four-year-old children in existing licensed early care and education programs, and/or to (ii) extend developmentally appropriate education services at such existing licensed programs currently serving four-year-old children to include practices of high quality instruction, and to (iii) administer, implement, monitor and evaluate the programs. Grant funds shall be provided on a local entity matching fund basis to be determined by the Department of Human Services.
(c) The Department of Human Services shall contract with an appropriate early care and education program entity to serve as the fiscal agent for the program. All grant applicants shall be required to collaborate with other early care and education programs, provide a local community match to the grant award, designate one (1) entity as fiscal agent for the grant, and meet teacher qualifications.
(d) The early care and education program grants shall be awarded to successful applicants who meet the criteria developed by a committee appointed by the Governor, consisting of, but not limited to, representatives of the Mississippi Department of Human Services Office for Children and Youth, the Mississippi Head Start Association, the Mississippi Head Start Collaboration Office, the Mississippi Department of Education, the Mississippi State Department of Health Child Care Licensure Division and licensed child care facilities, one (1) of which must have a majority low-income population, in the state. The committee shall meet upon call of the Governor and shall organize for business by electing a chairman. Administrative and clerical support for the committee shall be provided by the Department of Human Services. The committee shall establish grant application criteria, procedures and deadlines. The criteria must include all conditions prescribed in paragraph (c), and shall include, but not be limited to: voluntary enrollment of children, qualifications for teachers and assistant teachers, allowed expenses, children with special needs, use of a research-based curriculum aligned with the learning objectives/milestones in the Mississippi Early Learning Guidelines for Four-Year-Old Children, teacher/child ratios, child care facility licensure requirements, and collaboration with other early childhood programs.
(e) Any teacher, assistant teacher or other employee whose salary and fringe benefits are paid from early care and education grants under this act shall not be deemed to be classified as state or local school district employees and shall not be eligible for state health insurance benefits or membership in the Public Employees' Retirement System.
(f) Subject to the availability of funds appropriated therefor, the Department of Human Services shall administer the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the early care and education grant program including the awards and the application process. The State Department of Education, Office of Reading, Early Childhood and Language Arts, in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Office for Children and Youth, shall develop educational criteria regarding research-based curriculum, the state's early learning guidelines and developmentally appropriate educational services. Funding shall be provided subject to appropriation beginning with the 2008 fiscal year. The department shall make an annual report to the Legislature and the Governor regarding the effectiveness of the program.
(g) This subsection (3) shall stand repealed on July 1, 2010.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2007.