Gov. Jay Nixon today announced new investments through Missouri Start Smart to expand access to quality early childhood education opportunities so that more Missouri children start kindergarten ready to succeed in school and beyond.
“Over the past seven years, we’ve made significant investments to give more Missouri families access to quality, affordable early childhood education,” Gov. Nixon said. “By ensuring children start school ready to learn and helping working parents move up the economic ladder, early childhood education is a smart investment with a big return.”
The Governor announced that, through the Missouri Start Smart initiative, the Missouri Department of Economic Development will authorize more than $2.9 million in competitive funding awards to early childhood education projects in Hayti, Senath and Sedalia.
In Hayti, $999,924 will be awarded to the City of Hayti to assist the Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation construct a new Hayti Head Start/Early Head Start Center. The center will serve up to 91 children from low-income families who live in or near Hayti. Currently, there is no Head Start program in Hayti and only one licensed child care center. This new facility will provide early childhood education to an underserved population while creating up to 19 jobs.
In Senath, $999,924 will be awarded the City of Senath to assist the Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation develop a Head Start/Early Head Start Center to serve an additional 40 children from low income families. Currently, there are no Early Head Start facilities in Dunklin County and only two licensed childcare provides in Senath. The nearest Early Head Start center is in Arbyrd. However, the 63-year-old Arbyrd facility can no longer accommodate the needs of the community. The 68 children served at the Arbyrd location, most of which are from Senath, will continue to receive care at the new facility upon its completion, bringing the total number of children served at the new Head Start/Early Head Start Center in Senath to 108.
In Sedalia, $999,505 will be awarded to the City of Sedalia to assist the Missouri Valley Community Action Agency construct a new 9,872 sq.ft. building on land donated by the city for the purpose of relocating the Sedalia Head Start program. The new facility will serve 115 children, meet ADA standards and border Hubbard Park.
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, $12.4 million in Missouri Start Smart awards have been announced for 17 projects across the state, which will serve up to 1,624 pre-school age children.
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.