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Program gives ‘Even Start’ for parents

A preschool program for children of undereducated parents willcontinue to operate in the Franklin County School District nextyear after the state board of education appropriated funding forthe service for the seventh consecutive year.

FCSD Business Administrator Ramona Mullins said the $53,990.52grant award would fund the salary of one preschool teacheroperating the Even Start Family Literacy Program, designed to trainparents who did not finish high school how to use educationalresources to help their children study at home. The 15-studentclass, operated out of Franklin County Lower Elementary School, isone of three preschool programs offered by the district.

“The money goes to pay the salary for one preschool teacher, butit reaches out much further,” Mullins said. “It’s trying to givethe child an even start with children whose parents have finishedtheir education so they’ll have more backing at home. That’s veryimportant for the students.”

Mullins said the funding would also allow the Even Start teacherto make home visits to parents to find out how they can bestinteract with the program. She said the class offers severalresources for parents, including a computer lab that will teachthem computer skills and assistance preparing for GED examinationsoffered at the Franklin County Public Library.

“Any parent can come into our parent center to get someresources to help at home,” Mullins said.

Many parents have successfully utilized the Even Start programin seven years, Mullins said. The program allows parents to enrolltheir children in preschool for free, and the district pays anin-kind match to the grant by providing the classroom space andresources, she said.

The annual Even Start grant was once awarded in excess of$100,000, Mullins said, but the funding amount has declined inrecent years.

“We wouldn’t be getting this much except that other districtshave declined,” she said.

The Mississippi Board of Education appropriated almost $857,000total for Even Start in 10 districts. The Cleveland School Districtreceived the largest share of the funds, with $103,005.84 allottedfor its program. FCSD’s appropriation was the smallest, totalingone pennyless than that of the Montgomery County School District,which received $53,990.53.