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New law in Missouri helps expand early childhood education

Law allows state to fund more pre-K seats for low-income students
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Posted at 3:10 PM, May 08, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Schools in Missouri offering pre-K and other early childhood education programs will be able to expand their student population thanks to a new law.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 727 into law Tuesday. The law addresses many aspects of the state’s educational system.

One element of the law allows schools to count more pre-K enrollees as part of the school’s daily attendance, as long as the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

The state pays schools partly based on average daily attendance.

Counting pre-K enrollees as students will result in districts and charter schools receiving more money to hire teachers and expand classrooms.

"This is a win-win for everybody," explained Kris Collins, SchoolSmartKC’s director of pre-K and early childhood. "Families who are the most needy who need quality pre-K programs are now able to access that free of charge to them and our students who are in those programs, they will become more academically ready and kindergarten ready."

The organization advocated for expanded early childhood education funding.

Collins said about 3,600 pre-K-aged children in the Kansas City area are not currently enrolled in pre-K.

Early Start KC plans to add another pre-K classroom as part of a partnership it has with a charter school thanks to the new law.

“We get phone calls every day asking where’s my kid on the waiting list,” said Ashley Jones, a teacher at Early Start KC. “Our classrooms are full, we need more space.”

Centers like Early Start KC need more space to help parents like Matrika Hornsby.

The single, working mother relies on Early Start KC not only to teach her 4-year-old daughter, but to watch after her while Hornsby goes to work.

“I want to make sure my child is in a safe place where she’s learning and growing and flourishing,” Hornsby said.