Gov. Jay Nixon today visited Orrick High School to recognize its progress in becoming an A+ designated school and to discuss his plans for improving educational opportunities for all Missouri students.
During his visit, the Governor outlined his proposal for investing in high-quality preschool programs and extending Missouri's school year to the national average of 180 days. The Governor also discussed the need to expand this important academic opportunity by helping all Missouri schools achieve A+ designation by the end of this school year through an accelerated application process.
"From pre-k to college, we must provide our young people with a seamless path to academic success," Gov. Nixon said. "We can do this by investing in early childhood education, making sure that there are enough days in the school year to prepare our students for careers and college, and opening the doors of higher education for every Missouri student through the A+ program."
Under the A+ program, Missouri students can earn a scholarship to cover the cost of tuition and academic fees for two years at any public two-year community college or technical school in the state. To be eligible for the program, students must meet academic achievement standards, conduct and attendance requirements, and perform 50 hours of tutoring or mentoring service.
"Every Missouri student who has worked hard, played by the rules, and is academically prepared should have the chance to go to college, regardless of where they live" Gov. Nixon said. "That's why the budget I will propose for Fiscal Year 2014 will include funding to expand and expedite the A+ designation to every school district in Missouri. I call on those school districts that have not yet pursued A+ designation to seize this opportunity to put their students on the path to higher education."
Orrick High School is on track to receive A+ designation later this spring.
"Becoming an A+ school will provide our graduates with more opportunities to access a higher education here in Missouri," said Orrick Superintendent Aerin O'Dell. "We commend Gov. Nixon's efforts to bring this positive initiative to more student, schools and communities throughout the state."
Since 1997, almost 125,000 high-achieving Missouri students have qualified for A+ scholarships, and more than 50,000 have taken advantage of those financial incentives for at least one semester. In total, Missouri students have received more than $250 million in A+ scholarships since 1997. Since Gov. Nixon took office, 148 schools have earned the A+ designation, bringing the state total to 402 public high schools in Missouri.
Participation by Missouri students in the A+ program has grown by 30 percent during Gov. Nixon's tenure in office. Throughout his administration, Gov. Nixon has ensured that continued state funding is available to provide these scholarships for the record number of students participating in A+. For fiscal year 2014, the budget Gov. Nixon will propose later this month will include funding to support the A+ program in every qualifying Missouri school district.
During his visit, the Governor also discussed the need for Missouri's school year to be extended to the national average of 180 days. Missouri's school year is currently only 174 days - the fourth shortest school year in the country.
"To stay competitive in today's economy, Missouri's students should be in the classroom as much as their peers in other states. Extending Missouri's school year by just six instructional days will bring our state in line with the national average, while increasing educational opportunities for every student," Gov. Nixon said. "Building on our record investment last year in K-12 classrooms, my budget for the upcoming fiscal year will include resources to support additional school days - because investing in our public schools is the right thing to do for our kids and our economy."
Additionally, the Governor called for an increased investment in preschool education programs throughout the state, including new resources for pre-kindergarten programs in local school districts, and restoring cuts made last year by the General Assembly to childhood education initiatives such as Missouri's Early Head Start program.
"Early childhood education is a smart investment with a big return," Gov. Nixon said. "By making sure our kids enter kindergarten ready to learn, we prevent much more difficult - and expensive - academic problems from developing down the road."
The Governor will detail additional legislative and economic priorities during his 2013 State of the State Address at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28 to a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly. The Governor will present his recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2014 that day to the General Assembly as well.