With strong support from across the state, Missouri submitted its application for the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services Preschool Development Grant today. The grant would provide the state an opportunity to increase early childhood education throughout the state.
“We are excited about the opportunity we have before us,” said Stacey Preis, assistant commissioner in the Office of Early and Extended Learning. “It is vital that children have access to high-quality early childhood education. We must continue to increase this availability so all children can enter kindergarten ready for school. The amount of support we have received has been overwhelming.”
The grant could provide Missouri with up to $17.5 million per year and is renewable for up to four years. If Missouri is selected for the grant, it would expand high-quality preschool for 4-year olds in targeted high-need communities. States that receive the grant will be announced in December.
Those supporting the grant include Missouri Head Start State Collaboration Office, Missouri Head Start Association, Missouri School Boards’ Association, Kansas City Civic Council, Alliance for Children, Missouri Department of Social Services, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and Missouri Department of Mental Health. The grant has received support from numerous businesses, elected officials and local education agencies.
“This is important because Missouri is serving such a low percentage of 4-year olds in early learning,” said Jim Caccamo, director of Early Learning and Head Start for the Mid-America Regional Council. “We know early learning is important. It’s even more important for low-income families.”
The opportunity comes as Missouri continues to fall behind in early childhood education funding. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, Missouri is near the bottom in terms of funding for pre-K programs, ranking 38th out of 41 states with a state preschool program.
Planning for the grant application began in August and included a meeting with more than 50 stakeholders from across the state that included educators, early childhood experts, teacher organizations and other interested groups.
Ensuring that all Missouri children enter kindergarten prepared to be successful in school is one of the primary goals of Missouri’s Top 10 by 20 initiative, which calls for Missouri to be one of the top 10 states in education by 2020.