State Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, has filed Senate Bill 931 to increase funding for Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs by modifying the calculation of average daily attendance.
“Too many Missouri children enter kindergarten behind their peers and are never able to catch up. My legislation will put real dollars towards making sure more children start school ready to learn, preventing much larger problems later in life” said Sen. Arthur. “This legislation will help rural, suburban and urban districts expand their early childhood education programs without increasing the burden to local taxpayers. This legislation is incremental, affordable and vitally important to preparing the workforce of tomorrow.”
Current law allows the state to reimburse local school districts for up to 4 percent of their low-income student population, ages three to five, enrolled in that district’s ECE program. Under Sen. Arthur’s legislation, that cap would be raised 2 percent each year until it reaches a total reimbursement rate of 10 percent in the 2023-2024 school year.
The most recent data released by the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education revealed that fewer than half (48.7 percent) of Missouri third graders can read at grade level, with only 38 percent of seventh grade students achieving proficiency in math. ECE programs would significantly improve these scores in the years to come. Senator Arthur added, “With less than half of Missouri students able to read at grade level, early intervention is the best investment for long-term success.”
Recent reports have proven the efficacy of ECE programs. According to the RAND Corporation: “early childhood intervention programs have been shown to yield benefits in academic achievement, behavior, educational progression and attainment, delinquency and crime, and labor market success, among other domains. … Well-designed early childhood interventions have been found to generate a return to society ranging from $1.80 to $17.07 for each dollar spent on the program.”
Additionally, a recent Harvard University study found that children who attended high-quality ECE programs were less likely to need special education or repeat a grade and more likely to graduate from high school than their non-attending peers.
The First Five Years Fund, an early childhood education advocacy group, explained: “Investing in early childhood is a solution that creates upward mobility through opportunity. Instead of costly and marginally successful programs later in life, quality early childhood education helps prevent the achievement gap by building the cognitive and social skills necessary for school readiness.”