South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness is the state’s early childhood education initiative.
Executive director Georgia Mjartan told a state Senate Education subcommittee on Thursday that the agency prepares children for school.
“It’s not a day care program. This is not a child care. This is a Pre-K program. This is getting kids ready for kindergarten success.”
First Steps create a statewide public-private partnership to increase school readiness outcomes for children. The program was created in 1999 in response to gaps in kindergarten students’ preparedness for school.
Legislators on the Education Committee are reviewing First Steps as part of their regular oversight on each state agency.
Mjartan updated legislators on a nearly $7 million grant her agency’s board was forced to relinquish earlier this year after federal officials became concerned about abuse accusations at two childcare centers. The director said the private South Carolina Community Action Partnership made up of childcare centers around the state were able to successfully receive the grant instead. The grant will fund Early Head Start for about 250 children in 12 counties. Early Head Start prepares children up to 3 years old for school.
Mjartan said two childcare centers had to close for lack of funding, although children in those programs were able to transfer.
Senators are considering potential changes for First Steps. Mjartan said that smaller class size is best. “That means if you’re a teacher and you got ten four-year-olds you can do that. If you have 17 four-year-olds you are watching them.”
Each county in South Carolina is served by a First Steps Partnership responsible for meeting local needs and identifying collaborative opportunities. State-level board and staff support statewide priorities, programs, and assist local partnerships in meeting the needs of families statewide.