Gov. Nixon touts education agenda during visit to Parkway
By: Carol Enright
Gov. Jay Nixon visited Parkway’s Oak Brook Elementary School in Ballwin on Jan. 24. He congratulated the district for its academics, early childhood program and AAA bond rating and discussed his commitment to expanding state funding of public education in three key areas: early childhood education, extending the school year and expanding Missouri’s A+ Scholarship Program.
After visiting a preschool classroom, the governor praised the district’s “quality early childhood programs” and promised to increase state support of preschool programs and early childhood initiatives such as Head Start.
“Early childhood education is a smart investment with a very big return. Study after study confirms what parents and educators see each day firsthand: the first five years of a child’s development have an impact that last a lifetime,” Nixon said.
He made good on that promise at his State of the State address in Jefferson City on Jan. 28, revealing that his fiscal year 2014 budget contains a $17 million increase in early childhood funding.
“Making sure students are ready for kindergarten on day one is only part of the equation,” Nixon told the Oak Brook crowd. “We must also make sure that on day two, and every day after throughout the year, students and teachers have the time they need to learn the skills and curriculum important to academic success. This can only happen if the school year itself is of reasonable length. It’s pretty simple: the more you work, the longer you practice, the better you get.”
Currently, the Missouri school year is the fourth shortest in the country, requiring students to attend school 174 days per year. Nixon wants that school year to be six days longer. In his budget, Nixon announced more than $100 million in increased funding of K-12 classrooms, which includes support for those additional school days, as well as training teachers and modernizing equipment.
Nixon also talked about boosting funding for the state’s A+ Scholarship Program, which provides two years of tuition-free study at Missouri community colleges and career/technical schools to eligible high school students at participating schools who meet academic and community service criteria.
“But there are still schools in our state that aren’t part of this A+ program, so their students can’t apply for those scholarships – and kids working hard meeting all those rigorous requirements need to have that right,” Nixon said.
At his State of the State address, Nixon promised to expand the A+ Scholarship Program to every public school in the state, boosting funding to $30.4 million – a $1 million increase over last year’s budget. He also revealed $34 million in new funding for colleges and universities that will be tied to performance indicators, such as student success and graduation rates.
In total, Nixon’s budget increases educational funding by more than $150 million.
In his comments at Oak Brook, Nixon referenced the increased responsibilities – and higher expectations – being placed on school districts as they implement the more rigorous Common Core State Standards that must be in place by the 2014-2015 school year. He said that as the state gives public schools additional responsibilities, it must “give them additional tools.”
“So as we’ve turned the corner in the economy – and we have a few more resources to expand – I just want to make it clear to everyone in the Show-Me State that the first beneficiary of additional dollars coming into the state should be our kids and our public school systems,” Nixon said.