The St. Louis Regional Early Childhood Council joined the Missouri Children’s Leadership Council and other early childhood groups from around the state in testifying before Missouri Senate and House committees in support of legislation supporting collaboration between Pre-K programs and local school districts.
The legislation proposed in Missouri (SB 378 and HB 457) would allow local school districts the option of contracting for Pre-K classroom space with local community-based child care providers. Some districts do not have the physical capacity to expand their pre-school classrooms. The number of children in contracted space would be added to their allocation under the state Foundation Formula. (The number of children ages 3-5 who could be counted in the Foundation Formula would remain capped at four percent of the number who receive free and reduced lunch.)
This legislation could result in increased Pre-K enrollment and yield many benefits including:
• Expand overall PreK access
• Address capacity issues in areas where PreK may not otherwise be widely available due to lack of classroom space
• Allow parents to choose an appropriate environment for their children
• Promote quality and accountability across settings
• Save public funds by using existing facilities
• Merge existing professional development and technical assistance resources
• Establish linkages between service providers and special education resources
• Expand the program time to full-day and/or full-year to provide high quality early learning settings for young children with working parents
Working together to develop a seamless system of coordinated programs results in success for all the programs with significant benefits for parents and their young children. The collaboration that results from partnerships between schools and community early care providers is recommended by the Missouri Coordinating Board for Early Childhood Education.
Testifying from the RECC were Katie Rahn, Public Awareness & Advocacy Committee Chair and Executive Director, SouthSide Early Childhood Center; and from Youth In Need, Vice President of Early Childhood Programs Keri Young. The Senate Education Committee held its hearing on SB 378 on Tuesday, Feb. 28; the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee held its hearing on HB 457 on March 6. Also testifying in support of the bills were representatives from the Alliance for Early Childhood Education, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and New Northside Missionary Baptist Church.
Thanks to the Missouri Children’s Leadership Council Director of Policy and Advocacy, Judy Dungan, for organizing the presentation of testimony, and to all those who took time from their busy schedules to travel to Jefferson City twice on short notice to participate in these hearings. The Missouri Children’s Leadership Council is a coalition of children’s organizations from throughout Missouri working together on a coordinated policy agenda to promote the well-being of children. Presence at these hearings and throughout the legislative process does make a difference!
For updates on the progress of this legislation, visit the Children’s Leadership Council webpage with weekly legislative conference call reports.