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Gov. Nixon announces $5 million for early childhood education pr - KOAM TV 7

Gov. Nixon announces $5 million for early childhood education project in Joplin through Missouri Start Smart

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Joplin, MO -

Gov. Jay Nixon today announced a $5 million investment through Missouri Start Smart to expand access to quality early childhood education opportunities in Joplin so that more Missouri children start kindergarten ready to succeed in school and beyond.   The deadly tornado that struck Joplin in 2011 also resulted in a decrease in the number of available licensed preschool and childcare slots for area families.

“Early childhood education is a smart investment with a big return, and that’s why we are continuing to make preschool more accessible and affordable for Missouri families,” Gov. Nixon said. “This new early childhood education center will more than double school district’s available preschool slots for local families, and benefit the Joplin community for years to come.”

The Governor announced that, through the Missouri Start Smart initiative, the Missouri Department of Economic Development will authorize a $5 million Community Development Block Grant to the Joplin School District to expand and improve its early childhood education program.  The Joplin School District will use these funds to leverage an additional $5 million CDBG grant from the city, for a total of $10 million, to construct a new 32,000 to 40,000 square-foot early childhood education facility. This new facility will allow the district to increase access to its free early childhood education services for low-income families and implement a fee-based service for additional families.

Following the deadly 2011 tornado which destroyed Joplin High School, the early childhood space at the Memorial Education Center was converted to accommodate the needs of high school students. At that time, the Joplin Early Childhood program was relocated to more than a dozen temporary FEMA trailers located behind McKinley Elementary School, where it has continued to operate to this day.

Because the trailers can only accommodate a certain number of children, Joplin schools currently run a waiting list for early childhood education services. The new facility made possible with the funds announced today by Gov. Nixon, will eliminate this waiting list.

The new facility will double the space available for early childhood education services offered by the district, and create a total of 145 new slots in the morning and 145 new slots in the afternoon, increasing the total number of early childhood education slots available in the district from 230 to 520.  

“Early childhood education builds on many skills to develop a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning. The City Council recognizes this significance and proudly supports this Center as an important community asset for our youngest citizens,” said Joplin Mayor Michael Seibert. “During their developmental years, Joplin children will be enriched within this educational environment that will help them succeed in school and in life.”

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.

As the first official business of his second term, Gov. Nixon met with early childhood education officials, educators and advocates about the importance of improving and expanding access to quality early learning opportunities, and to develop a plan to find additional early childhood education dollars.

In addition to funding through the Missouri Preschool Program, in 2014, the Governor launched Missouri Start Smart to support the development, expansion or improvement of high-quality early childhood and pre-kindergarten programs throughout the state. To date, $17.4 million in Missouri Start Smart awards have been announced for 18 projects across the state, which will serve up to 1,944 pre-school age children.

Most recently, the Governor’s balanced budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2017 funds early childhood education through Missouri’s school foundation formula, which would provide more than 2,500 kids access to high quality pre-school.

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