Mississippi Power to invest in early education


JACKSON, Miss. - July 1, 2007 - Mississippi Power, through its Education Foundation, announces a three-year total commitment of $450,000 to Mississippi State University’s Early Childhood Institute for the purpose of keeping South Mississippi’s child care centers ahead of new early childhood education standards being passed down by the Mississippi Department of Human Services Office for Children and Youth. The announcement was made at the Mississippi Early Childhood Meeting in Jackson today, hosted by Governor Haley Barbour.


“As chair of Momentum Mississippi, I am very aware of the need to address the significant issues in early education identified in the McCoy Working Group and Blueprint Mississippi studies,” said Mississippi Power President and Chief Executive Officer Anthony Topazi. “It is clear that many of our children are not school ready when they enter kindergarten and grade school. We believe that the private sector must play a role with government in responding to this need if we are to give our children in Mississippi an opportunity for success.”


“Mississippi Power is making a significant commitment by focusing on early childhood education as a critical component of long-term issues that can best be addressed by innovative public-private partnerships like the one announced today. Such an investment in high quality, early care and education programs will yield great dividends over time, resulting in students with a greater capacity to learn, a better workforce, higher productivity and an improved quality of life,” Governor Haley Barbour said.


Decades of research show that high quality early childhood education is the key to getting children school-ready. National studies show students who participated in a formal early education program were several months ahead of children without the program in cognitive skills for letter-word identification and in problem solving.


The early childhood education program facilitated by Mississippi State will be appropriately named, POWER Early Learning, in recognition of Mississippi Power’s ongoing commitment and corporate sponsorship to establish awareness and positive action for continued quality education in Mississippi.


“Mississippi State has established early childhood education as one of its centers of excellence, and we’re very proud of the contributions the Early Childhood Institute has made in research and outreach around the region,” said MSU President Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong. “Our programs, such as the Katrina Recovery Playground Project for more than 200 Gulf Coast childcare centers, have been nationally recognized, and we’re pleased to continue these efforts with the support of Mississippi Power.”


“By launching the Mississippi Child Care Quality Step System, the State of Mississippi has created clear standards and incentives for higher quality in early care and education. Thanks to Mississippi Power, we will be able to work closely with participating child care centers to help them prepare to earn high-quality ratings from the Quality Step System as it takes effect,” said Cathy Grace, founding director, Early Childhood Institute, Mississippi State University. “The MSU Early Childhood Institute will use evidence-based methods for on-site technical assistance and professional development of early childhood teachers and caregivers.”


POWER Early Learning will launch this fall in licensed child care centers in the counties served by Mississippi Power.


“Mississippi Power looks forward to working in partnership with Mississippi State University to ensure our children go to school ready to learn and prepared to succeed,” said Topazi. “We hope a far-reaching statewide program of this standard will ultimately make a dramatic improvement in Mississippi’s overall education performance levels.”


The Mississippi Power Education Foundation was established in 1984. The company has supported excellence in education throughout its service area by awarding more than $3 million in grants and awards to teachers, schools, school systems and educational projects.


Mississippi State University established the Early Childhood Institute in 1999 to provide training, technical assistance and applied research for improved quality and accessibility of early care and education across Mississippi.


Media Contact: Cindy Duvall, Mississippi Power Corporate Communications, 228.865.5543 or 1.800.821.6383, cwduvall@southernco.com