SC legislators, agencies meet to discuss early childhood education

SC legislators, agencies meet to discuss early childhood education

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Wednesday morning, some lawmakers met to discuss the future of the South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness program.

The program provides resources for children 5 years old or younger and their families to make sure they are ready for kindergarten.

Director Georgia Mjartan said there are problems with the current early education system with less than 40% of five-year-olds ready for kindergarten when they show up for the first day of school. She said there is also a problem with keeping parents informed on what resources are available through different agencies.

"As a parent, I know that our system is disconnected in the way we face the public,” she said. “It’s complicated and confusing. And I think our legislators and many people are just looking for creative ways to make access to programs easier to the public so is there a need yes there is a problem there is a need.”

She said the committee meeting gives legislators and state agencies a chance to work together to fix it. Mjartan said the meeting will focus on the South Carolina Early Childhood Advisory Council, which is run and funded by South Carolina First Steps.

It includes directors from eight state agencies that provide resources to young children and families, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.

"We all... all of these different agencies offer different programs and how do we work together so that families can find and access all of these different programs that span across medical care, health, developmental resources, early intervention, and early education?”

Mjartan said the goal of Wednesday morning’s meeting is to strengthen the advisory council, which connects all the resources available for young children in South Carolina and to get more funding to make that happen.

"We need our state legislators, each of those legislators, to really understand that without additional state dollars, we are not going to have a state where the state’s kindergarteners are showing up ready for success,” Mjartan said.

She said more funding would help the council continue to build a website recently launched that connects every agency's resources for young families.

You can visit that website by clicking here.

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