Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann walked room-to-room at Indianola’s Head Start building last week.
It was the second stop of three scheduled for the day, which included a tour of Leland Medical Clinic and a mental health agency in the Delta.
Hosemann was on a fact-finding mission, looking closely at Delta Health Alliance and how it operates its multiple centers.
“This really is a template for other areas around the state,” Hosemann told The E-T during his stop in Indianola. “I had heard the news about it, and I was interested to see how it is working.”
Hosemann said that DHA’s multifaceted approach to its services could be replicated throughout the state and could be the eventual answer to many problems, particularly when it comes to early childhood education.
DHA has been involved in Sunflower County education system for years, but this is the second full year the nonprofit has operated the Head Start program locally.
It is also set to take over Head Start in Warren County.
“Early childhood education is going to be a critical component for us going forward,” Hosemann said.
Hosemann toured several classrooms, asking pointed questions to DHA leaders, making sure that every child who qualified for the Head Start program was able to get in.
On top of that, Hosemann was told there was one teacher for every four students in the facility.
“Very impressed here,” he said. “They have obviously turned the paradigm. It wasn’t like this in the past. Just in a matter of a couple of years here.”
Education has become one of Hosemann’s chief concerns over the past few months, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the spring and forced many kids out of the classroom and into distance learning.
“I’m very concerned,” he said. “I’m getting numbers between 2% and 10% of children who are students who were registered before, last year, and are not registered this year. We don’t know where they went. They didn’t all go to private school. They’re out here somewhere, but they haven’t registered for distance learning or they’re not in school.”
Hosemann said the Legislature budgeted more money for education this past year than in years past, thanks largely to hundreds of millions of dollars in CARES Act funds, plus an additional $75 million investment into rural broadband.
“So we’ve made a big commitment to education,” Hosemann said.
The youngest students are the only ones getting to experience in-person classes this fall in Sunflower County because of COVID-19. Hosemann hopes that all students, especially ones who are facing the third-grade gate this year, are back in the classroom soon.
“In my opinion, distance learning is a stop-gap measure,” Hosemann said. “It is not a permanent solution. The solution is to have our children in front of a competent teacher. That’s where children will continue to learn in an extradited fashion. Our goal is to get our kids back in school.”