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Missouri Seeks Federal Grant For Early Childhood Education

Sarah Gilbert

The state of Missouri is going after a multi-million dollar federal grant that would pay for more children to go to high-quality preschool programs.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says it has applied for a $17.5 million Preschool Development Grant.

This is the same grant program that Kansas said no to last month.

Most educators agree that high-quality pre-school is crucial to improving education at all levels.

“We are excited about the opportunity we have before us,” Stacey Preis, assistant commissioner in DESE's Office of Early and Extended Learning, said in a statement. “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."

Jim Caccamo directs early learning and Head Start programs for the Mid-America Regional Council.

“The early learning development grant is very, very important to the state of Missouri. Right now, Missouri serves, with state dollars, only four percent of 4-year-olds in early learning programs,” he says.

That places Missouri 39th in state spending on early childhood education.

Kansas doesn't fare much better. It ranks 38th in spending.

Last month, Gov. Sam Brownback refused to support an application for a similar grant that could have landed an extra $15 million a year for early childhood education in Kansas.

The governor said he thought the Legislature should be involved in the decision. Lawmakers don’t reconvene until January and the applications are due in the next few days.

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