Early Childhood Capitol Day

Help us shift the early childhood landscape through policy change.

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 to host the fourth annual Early Childhood Capitol Day on January 18, 2023. This year’s in-person Capitol Day focused on the critical role that policy supports for childcare, postpartum healthcare, and early intervention services play in strengthening Mississippi’s workforce and overall economy.

During Capitol Day, we shared 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.  

Increase single parents’ access to childcare by removing the requirement that they cooperate with child support enforcement to be eligible for the Child Care Payment Program (CCPP). 

Create long-term cost-savings by reducing health problems and deaths associated with pregnancy: Continue 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.

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.

These recommendations are grounded in research and community input. We’ve heard from early education providers and families across the state, and we listened to the data and expert testimony shared this past fall during senate hearings on the needs of women, children, and families. We’ve also reviewed the Governor’s state budget recommendations, and recommendations made by the State Early Childhood Advisory Council. Our policy recommendations are a reflection of the growing movement to invest in young children and families, while also centering workforce needs.

We held a press conference to discuss these recommendations, which was was covered by 16 WAPT News Jackson. Nine speakers, including business leaders, early childhood experts, and grassroots advocates, shared statistics and their personal experiences to make the case for each recommendation. Speakers included:

  • Biz Harris, Interim Executive Director of MELA
  • 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

Speakers also included the following members of the Mississippi Early Childhood Investment Council of ReadyNation MS:

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

Over a dozen early childhood organizations in Mississippi support all four recommendations.

We conducted an online survey with childcare providers and other early childhood professionals, parents, and business leaders to gauge support for these recommendations. We received 90 responses.

  • 96% of respondents support allocating lottery funds (or other unallocated funds) to a program that provides professional development and wage supplements directly to participating childcare staff.  
  • 69% of respondents support removing the requirement that single parents cooperate with child support enforcement to be eligible for the Child Care Payment Program (CCPP). 
  • 91% of respondents support continuing Medicaid coverage through 12 months postpartum.
  • 84% of respondents support the creation of an Early Intervention task force and pilot project.

Capitol Day 2023 in Review

About 80 people joined us in the Capitol Rotunda to learn more about the four recommendations.

Eight legislators engaged with early childhood professionals and advocates during or immediately after Capitol Day.

About 50 people attended the networking reception, and 9 organizations hosted informational tables.


Did you attend Capitol Day? We’d love for you to share our press release with your local newspaper, post it on the news section of your website, or share an update through your organization’s newsletter! Use the button below to download an editable version – make sure you add in your own information in the highlighted section! You are also welcome to add additional information to fit your organization’s needs.

The Mississippi Early Learning Alliance will be tracking certain bills and policies that come up throughout this year’s legislative session, especially those related to our four recommendations.

Would you like to receive updates about legislation related to early childhood via text? Sign up for text message updates! Text “@mslegis” to the number 81010 to receive updates.

Resources from Previous Capitol Days

Capitol Day 2022 Videos

Childcare Issues & Opportunities in Mississippi

One of our goals for our 2022 Capitol Day was to highlight childcare issues and opportunities in Mississippi, and to engage with legislators around these topics. Of course, we at MELA recognize that childcare providers don’t need us to speak for them, so we recorded interviews with several childcare providers and early childhood professionals in order to amplify their voices and perspectives.

The video explores several key topics with childcare providers across the state, including:

  • The critical importance of education-focused childcare for young children (starting with children ages 0-3)
  • The potential benefits of integrating childcare with existing programs and infrastructure, such as the Early Learning Collaboratives
  • The challenges of giving educators the resources and compensation they need while maintaining affordable rates for families
  • The ways that providers are stepping up to meet the needs of Mississippi children and families, despite various challenges

We created this video for use with Mississippi legislators, in conjunction with our 2022 Early Childhood Development Capitol Day. However, Mississippi parents’ ability to find and afford consistent, education-focused childcare affects us all – from parents to teachers to business owners and more. Watch the video below to learn more!

Mississippi Legislator Panel

MELA pre-recorded a panel with Mississippi legislators to get their thoughts on several key topics within early education and childcare. Our panel features Representative Kent McCarty and Representative John Hines. Representative McCarty serves District 101 (Lamar county), and was selected because of his position as Vice Chairman of the House Education Committee. Representative Hines serves district 50 (Bolivar, Issaquena, Washington), and was selected for his membership in the House Public Health and Human Services committee. The questions we asked our panel members are designed to reference our Childcare Issues & Opportunities video, as well as feedback and questions we’ve heard from childcare providers and early childhood advocates across the state.


Key Resources from Breakout Sessions

Find key resources that were shared in each of our Capitol Day 2022 breakout sessions in the table below.

Session NameHost OrganizationKey Resources
Making the Child Care Payment Program Work Better for Families and ProvidersMississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative (MLICCI)> Connect with MLICCI and follow their work: mschildcare.org 
> Join the MLICCI Child Care Leadership Team (CCLT), sign up for newsletters, and get their advocacy toolkit here.
> Refer moms who need a pathway to higher wages and affordable child care to apply for MLICCI’s Employment Equity for Single Moms program.
> Explore MLICCI’s policy-focused analyses & reports.
Project ECHO for Childcare Providers: Connecting Childcare Providers with Child Health & Development SpecialistsGraduate Center for the Study of Early Learning and the MSU Social Science Research Center> Learn more about the Project ECHO model
Power and Potential: Advancing Afterschool and Summer Programs in MississippiMississippi Statewide Afterschool Network (MSAN)> Find an afterschool or summer learning program MSAN’s interactive map. To add your program, scroll down to “Register Your Program.”
> Enter your email on MSAN’s homepage to subscribe to “Mississippi in your inbox” newsletter.
> Use MSAN’s interactive data dashboard to explore how these programs are meeting the needs of youth in Mississippi, and determine where gaps remain.
> Find resources for school & community partnerships, funding, tips & resources for families, and more on MSAN’s website, or submit your own resource.
Obesity Prevention in the Early Care & Education SettingMississippi Farm to School Network> Learn more about the Farm to Early Care and Education movement.
> Learn more about GO NAPSACC, a research-based online platform to help childcare providers build healthy eating and physical activity habits in the children they care for.
> Download the GO NAPSACC flyer.
Maximizing Your Child Care Strong Stabilization Grant SpendingLoving Hands Educational Services> Official Child Care Strong Grant Webpage
> Webinar: Child Care Strong Grant Money – Planning to Spend
> Email the Mississippi Department of Human Services with specific questions at Childcarestrong@mdhs.ms.gov
> Additional resources & handouts (scroll to “Child Care Strong Grant Planning to Spend Training”)
Childcare Policy in Mississippi 101: Mississippi State-level PolicyMississippi State University Social Sciences Research Center & MSU-Meridian Division of Education> Flowchart: How a Bill Becomes Law in Mississippi
> Download the presentation slides
> Information about the Mississippi Education Policy Fellowship Program
> Keep up with Mississippi SECAC, a council tasked with advising the Governor on issues related to early childhood care & education. SECAC hosts bimonthly public meetings.
Federal Childcare Policy & Federal Relief for ChildcareChild Care Aware of America> Build Back Better Act Advocacy Toolkit
> Responses to Tough Questions about the Build Back Better Act
> American Rescue Plan Act Webpage: (includes the ARPA Implementation Tracker, Tips for Advocating for Federal Relief Funding, Best Practices Checklist for Child Care Advocates, Talking Points for Responding to Pushback, and more)

We’re proud of our Capitol Day tradition.

Check out these photos from our 2021 Virtual Capitol day!

Photos from 2020 Early Childhood Development Capitol Day

About 30 Mississippi Early Childhood health, development, and educational organizations joined us for the Inaugural Capitol Day.
Check out our photos from this year’s event below.