Ideas on Tap to address early childhood education

Published 10:30 am Monday, July 30, 2018

The Mississippi Humanities Council will be in Oxford this week as part of its Ideas on Tap discussion series.

The event, which will take place on Thursday, Aug. 2 at Proud Larry’s from 5:30 to 7 p.m., will center around early childhood education in the LOU community and the state. Caroline Gillespie, program officer for MHC, said the goal of the program is to discuss topics about which citizens are passionate. After being contacted by local attorney and District 1 Supervisor Kevin Frye, Gillespie said it was clear that education is one of those topics.

“One of our main things when we go into new communities is that we don’t know what people want to hear about, so it’s on us to find local partners and to work with local people and organizations who kind of have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on,” Gillespie said. “[Frye] had a lot of research done on the problems with affordable childhood education in Oxford, so he thought it was something people would really want to hear about.”

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Discussion panel members for the free event will be Dr. Cathy Grace with the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning; Dr. Michael Cormack, CEO of the Barksdale Reading Institute and Tamara Hillmer, CEO of LOU Reads. Frye will moderate the discussion.

In the state of Mississippi, monthly childcare costs are $665 on average, according to an April 2018 nationwide report by Business Broker Network. Annually, Mississippians are paying around $7,891 per year, per child – 12 percent of the average family income.

The report also analyzed monthly childcare costs as a percentage of the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment. In Mississippi, monthly childcare costs equate to 83 percent of the average two-bedroom apartment rent, making it one of only five states where childcare costs are less expensive than average rental rates.

Presenting known research with a variety of local expert opinions and observations is something Gillespie said will help to enhance and direct the discussion.

“We partnered with the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning and with the North Mississippi Education Consortium to present this program,” she said. “I think we’ve pulled together a varied group of people who all have different stakes and different interests in it, so I’m excited to hear the research they’ve done and their perspective on the issue.”

There are 12 registered childcare centers within the 38655 zip code. With capacities ranging from as little as 15 children to as many as 205, there are enough spaces for 1,145 children to be in center-based childcare programs.

According to the National Education Association, studies have proven that a solid foundation in early childhood education not only promotes school readiness, but also lowers future criminal activity. Children who were enrolled in early childhood education programs also performed better in the areas of mathematics and literacy.

For Frye, education is the key to keeping the LOU Community on an upward path.

“Oxford and Lafayette County revolve around education,” Frye said. “That said, we do not have the same early childhood ed resources as some other communities in our state. I think this discussion will be interesting to our community, and hope it will generate some long-term conversations.”

Thursday’s Ideas on Tap discussion is free and open to the public. Snacks will be provided, and beverages will be available for purchase. For more information or to RSVP, visit the event’s Facebook page.