Over 75 Mississippi Professionals Gathered in Jackson for Early Childhood Capitol Day

Over 75 Mississippi Professionals Gathered in Jackson for Early Childhood Capitol Day
February 7, 2023 leighsargent611

Lawmakers encouraged to support Mississippi’s workforce by taking action on four policy recommendations related to childcare, postpartum healthcare, and early intervention services.

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI – 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 first gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to discuss the recommendations directly with event hosts and connect with other early childhood professionals, advocates, and legislators. Supporters then moved outside for a press conference where nine speakers, including business leaders, early care and education experts, and grassroots advocates shared statistics and their personal experiences to make the case for the group’s policy agenda, which consists of 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.
    • Increase single parents’ participation in the workforce 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.

“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 business leaders representing the voices of Mississippi industry, and called 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 childcare 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. She shared, “ I am the working mother of an 8-month old. I can tell you that when working parents have what they need to stay healthy, go to work, and support their children, their employers benefit. 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.”

More details about Early Childhood Capitol Day can be found at msearlylearning.org/take-action/capitol-day, including a complete list of press conference speakers and photos from the event.