The fourth annual Early Childhood Capitol Day explores the positive “domino effect” that policy supports for young children, their families, and early childhood professionals can have on the economy.
JACKSON, MS. – As Mississippi’s 2023 legislative session gets underway, early childhood advocates are working to ensure that key policies to support young children, their families, and early childhood professionals get on lawmakers’ agendas. On Wednesday, January 18, 2023, the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance, the Systems Change Lab of the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University, Excel by 5, and the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning will host the fourth annual Mississippi Early Childhood Capitol Day in Jackson.
This year’s event will focus on the critical role that policy supports for childcare, postpartum healthcare, and early intervention services play in strengthening Mississippi’s workforce and overall economy. In addition to the four event hosts, more than seventy other individuals and organizations who advocate for—or directly support—the educational, physical, and socio-emotional development of children 0-4 years of age will be present.
During Capitol Day, event hosts will share four specific policy recommendations with lawmakers and the public:
- Resolve the childcare staffing crisis by allocating lottery funds (or other unallocated funds) to a program that provides professional development and wage supplements directly to participating childcare staff.
- Reduce childcare costs for working parents with limited resources by removing the requirement that single parents cooperate with child support enforcement to be eligible for the Child Care Payment Program (CCPP).
- Reduce pregnancy-associated health problems and deaths by continuing Medicaid coverage through 12 months postpartum.
- Create an Early Intervention task force and pilot project to study methods and models to increase the number of children served, keep qualified early intervention practitioners in the state, reduce special education costs when children enter school, and improve the lives of Mississippi children and families in need.
These recommendations were developed and refined based on feedback from childcare providers and families from across the state; data and expert testimony shared this past fall during state senate hearings on the needs of women, children, and families; the Governor’s state budget recommendations and Pro-Life Agenda; as well as recommendations made by the State Early Childhood Advisory Council. Over a dozen early childhood organizations have officially voiced their support for these recommendations.
Biz Harris, Interim Executive Director of the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance and one of the event organizers, said, “We hope that Mississippians from all over the state will join us to share with our elected officials how important it is to our economy to support young children, families, and early childhood professionals this session. We know that when working parents have what they need to stay healthy, go to work, and support their children, their employers benefit. We know that the state can save money in the long term by investing in children and families today. If the Mississippi legislature takes action on these four policy recommendations, we can create a domino effect that reduces cross-sector worker shortages, cuts red tape, and strengthens our economy.”
Mississippi’s Early Childhood Investment Council, which is composed of business leaders across the state that advocate for investments in early learning programs, emphasize the critical role that early care and education play in the state’s economy. “We’ve heard from industry leaders across the state who are looking to hire quality staff, and they can attest to the need for greater access to childcare,” said Tim Weston, the Vice President of JESCO, Inc. Construction. A 2021 report from the Mississippi Economic Council, the Children’s Foundation of Mississippi and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that Mississippi loses over $670 million annually because of gaps in childcare. Employers lose approximately $553 million per year due to worker absences and employee turnover. 86% of parents who voluntarily leave their jobs do so when their children are two years old or younger – indicating that child care for infants and toddlers is an area of greatest need. “If we want families and Mississippi’s economy to thrive, then childcare, particularly for infants and toddlers, is critical to support working families now and to enable those who have left the workforce to get back to work,” said Weston.
Early Childhood Capitol Day is open to the public – childcare professionals, early childhood and family advocates, parents, and business leaders are encouraged to attend. More information, including free registration for both the event and a networking reception to follow, is available on msearlylearning.org/take-action/capitol-day.