COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - According to state officials, there are more than 70,000 open jobs for highly skilled people in South Carolina.
The Governor's Office said one solution to help fill those jobs in the future is by investing in early education.
Right now, children living in poverty in 62 traditional school districts can take part in a full-day 4K program offered at a public school or private child care center.
There are 17 school districts in the state where there are thousands of at-risk children who aren't attending a pre-kindergarten program. The Governor's Office said they have a proposal that would change that.
Governor Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) said, "This will allow those young people at those precious ages to move on up in education and to unleash their talents."
His plan would expand full-day 4K statewide to children in poverty. It would cost about $53 million. The full proposal will be unveiled when the Governor announces his executive budget later this month.
The Governor's Office said results from the state's Kindergarten Readiness Assessment showed those students who attended a full-day, 4K program in public schools outperformed their peers who did not attend at 4K program.
Gov. McMaster said, "All the facts and figures around the country demonstrate that if you start teaching them at four years old by the third grade they are reading, writing and they are ready to go."
The plan would increase the student reimbursement rate for all public and private 4K providers from $4,600 to $4,800 for the instructional costs related to the program. With statewide expansion, the types of providers eligible for participation in the state 4K program will also include qualified parochial, private, independent or church schools.
Governor McMaster said this proposed expansion plan would give families more options. "It opens it up to where the money follows the child," he said.
According to the Governor's Office, any child who qualifies for Medicaid or whose family income is 185% or less of the federal poverty level qualifies to attend.
In addition, the Governor will propose expanding a parent’s choice in selecting where their eligible child may attend full day four-year-old kindergarten. The Governor’s Office said parental choice already exists in South Carolina for 4K in 62 school districts.