Event organizers shared four key policies to support young children, their families, and Mississippi’s current and future workforce.
On Wednesday, January 18, 2023, over 75 leaders, practitioners, and experts in early education, business, healthcare, and child development gathered at the State Capitol to share four early childhood policy recommendations with Mississippi lawmakers and the public. The event was the fourth annual Early Childhood Capitol Day, and was hosted by MELA partnered with 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 Supporters gathered in the Capitol Rotunda, moved outside for a press conference where nine speakers, including business leaders, early childhood experts, and grassroots advocates, shared statistics and their personal experiences to make the case for the group’s policy agenda, which includes the following recommendations:
- 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.
“Mississippi businesses – large and small – can tell you that they are facing critical worker shortages. Because parents make up a large portion of our workforce, we are recommending that our legislature takes action to help working parents have access to both healthcare and childcare so they can remain in their jobs and be productive at work,” said Biz Harris, Interim Executive Director of the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance.
Maury Hull, Vice President of Human Resources at the Hol-Mac Corporation, was one of three key business leaders representing the voices of Mississippi industry in a call for the legislature to help resolve cross-sector worker shortages. “Mississippi loses over $670 million annually because of gaps in childcare,” Hull said, continuing, “In 2021, more than half of parents reported that they missed work due to child care issues. Hol-Mac has seen this play out every day.”
The event hosts developed their recommendations based on state and national data, expert testimony, interviews and focus groups with Mississippi parents and childcare directors and workers, as well as the governor’s own recommendations contained within his Pro-Life agenda. Thus far, over a dozen early childhood organizations have voiced their support for all four recommendations.
Daisy Carter, Executive Director of the state early childhood network Excel by 5 shared her personal and professional experiences related to these policies, stating, “ I am the working mother of an 8-month old. I can tell you that that when working parents have what they need to stay healthy, go to work, and support their children, their employers and the economy benefits. 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.”
Complete list of press conference speakers:
- Biz Harris, Interim Executive Director of MELA
- Tonya Ware, State Project Director for ReadyNation Mississippi
- Maury Hull, Vice President of Human Resources at the Hol-Mac Corporation
- Debra McGee, Senior Vice President and Director of Minority Business Development at BankPlus
- Tamara Smith, Director of Early Childhood with Midtown Partners, Inc.
- April May, Programs and Coalitions Director for MELA
- Dr. Susan Buttross, Professor Emeritus at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
- Angela Grayson, Director of Advocacy and Organizing for The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects
- Daisy Carter, Executive Director of Excel by 5