AG Sends More than $36.4 Million to State General Fund
Attorney General Jim Hood delivered a $36,481,061.22 check to the Mississippi state general fund Tuesday that included settlement monies recently collected and recommended using the money for funding and expanding early childhood education statewide.
The nine settlements mostly include data breach, antitrust and other consumer protection cases. The money is placed into the state’s general fund and appropriated by the Legislature; however, General Hood is required by state law (Mississippi Code Section 7-5-63), to make recommendations to the legislative leadership on how the money should be spent.
In the attached letter to legislative leadership, General Hood recommended the money be spent on quality early childhood education programs, including fully funding and expanding the Early Learning Collaboratives Program (ELCs), a quality, state-funded pre-k program already in place. However, in the current school year, there are only 19 ELCs across the state serving under 3,000 four-year-old students.
“We already have a quality, state-funded pre-k program in place,” General Hood said. “Unfortunately, our Lt. Governor has failed to fund this program at the full amount allowed by state law every year. We should be investing in more students to attend ELCs across the state. Investing in quality early childhood education programs is fundamental to long-term economic success. In education, our state trails almost every other. We must start our children reading earlier by providing four-year-old kindergarten statewide.”
In the 2018-19 school year, only about 36% of incoming kindergarteners achieved the target score on the kindergarten readiness assessment. However, students in state-funded pre-k programs scored much better, with ¾ scoring above the readiness benchmark.
General Hood proposes allocating the full $36.4 million to fully fund the program that the ELC Act allows, which costs $33.95 million per year. “After that, I’d like the legislature to expand the program, using the remaining $2.58 million as a starting point,” General Hood said. “If we start to fully fund and expand this program, we can provide a state-funded pre-k classroom for every four-year-old not already served by another early learning program. This is essential for better preparing children for kindergarten and traditional K-12 school.”
“The money I’ve sent over to the Legislature is extra money they now have to spend on one of the most critical programs in our state that hasn’t been prioritized under current legislative leadership,” General Hood said. “I sincerely hope the Legislature will carefully consider how this money is dispersed and remember the positive impacts these quality early childhood programs have on our children, families, and Mississippi’s future. There should be nothing partisan about meeting the needs of our children across the state.”