In Missouri, about 4,903 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start, but only 1 percent of three-year-olds and 3 percent of four-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded pre-K programs. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $8,320. There is a statewide push for increased pre-kindergarten, thanks in large part to a hard push from parents. The Missouri Preschool Project (MPP) is the main model dedicated to serving 3- and 4-year-olds and it operates through public schools, nonprofits, and private child care centers.
- What the governor is saying: In Gov. Jay Nixon’s State of the State address, he proposed nearly tripling the funding for the Missouri Preschool Program, suggesting a $30 million increase for early childhood education programs. In July 2014, the governor signed legislation into law that would expand the state’s school funding formula to include a limited number of preschool students eligible for free or reduced lunches. The bill will take effect gradually over the next several years.
- What’s happening in the legislature: In both chambers of the Missouri Legislature, “a long line of supporters [have] testified in favor” of bills to add students to the state’s pre-K program, with no one testifying against the bills. As a result, the Missouri House passed a bill at the end of their legislative session to allow school districts to serve more 3- to 5-year-olds in preschool programs.
- Funding increases and additional support: While the Missouri state budget includes $114.8 million for K-12 schools, some state representatives said “it wasn’t good enough because public schools in Missouri are still underfunded by $600 million.” State Rep. Margo McNeil, a Democrat, told St. Louis Public Radio that “We need to be getting early childhood education, really, to everyone who wants it … at the minimum we should be getting early childhood education to our provisional and unaccredited districts so that they have a chance to get back on track.”