Gov. Jay Nixon today visited the El Dorado Springs School District to announce a new investment through Missouri Start Smart to expand access to quality early childhood education opportunities so that more Missouri children start kindergarten ready to succeed in school and beyond.
"Last year we launched Missouri Start Smart to increase access to affordable early childhood education programs to help young children succeed in school and help parents stay in the workforce," Gov. Nixon said. "This effort was incredibly successful and I'm proud to announce that it is back for a second year, as we continue to recognize that early childhood education is a smart investment with a big return."
During his visit to El Dorado Springs today, the Governor announced that through the Missouri Start Smart initiative, the Missouri Department of Economic Development will authorize a competitive funding award of $988,275 for the nonprofit organization El Do Youth Inc. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding will assist the El Dorado Springs School District in constructing a new 6,000 square foot Pre-K facility that will serve an additional 20 children and allow the district to expand its current half-day Pre-K program to a full day program.
"Without a quality Pre-K program, some kids fall behind before they've even started. That's why early childhood education is so important to our district," said El Dorado Springs Superintendent Mark Koca. "The new resources made available by Gov. Nixon through Missouri Smart Start will help us to serve more families and make sure more children are ready for kindergarten on Day One."
"Over the past few years, we've worked together to give thousands more children access to quality preschool programs, but there is still a lot of work to do," Gov. Nixon said. "That's why we put this competitive process in place to help communities make strategic, targeted investments in expanding early childhood educational opportunities for their kids and boosting economic opportunities for their workers."
At the start of his second term in 2013, Gov. Nixon announced that early childhood education would be a central focus of his efforts to continue to strengthen education and grow Missouri's economy. As the first official business of his second term, the Governor met with early childhood education officials, educators and advocates about the importance of improving and expanding access to quality early learning opportunities.
In addition to increasing funding for the Missouri Preschool Program, last year the Governor directed the Department of Economic Development to solicit proposals for competitive Missouri Start Smart funding to support the development, expansion or improvement of high-quality early childhood and pre-kindergarten programs throughout the state. During Fiscal Year 2014, Gov. Nixon announced 11 Missouri Start Smart early childhood education projects across the state, serving up to 1,215 pre-school age children.
Gov. Nixon has made public education in Missouri a top priority of his administration. Even during the height of the recession, Gov. Nixon worked across the aisle to balance the budget every year without raising taxes or making deep cuts to K-12 classrooms. Math and reading scores have increased on his watch, and Missouri's high school graduation rate is now the eighth highest in the nation.