Editorials

Missouri’s failed bid to get federal preschool funds is inexcusable

Youngsters lined up for a new activity at the Alphabet Academy Learning Center, 3200 Wayne Ave. More preschools are needed in the state.
Youngsters lined up for a new activity at the Alphabet Academy Learning Center, 3200 Wayne Ave. More preschools are needed in the state. The Kansas City Star

Early education boosts children’s ability to do well when entering kindergarten. It increases the likelihood that they’ll excel academically and become lifelong learners.

It’s thus disturbing that Missouri recently failed to secure $17.5 million annually for four years in U.S. Department of Education early childhood funding. Missouri came in last of the nine bids for federal preschool development grants.

The money would have gone to 28 school sites — including Kansas City Public Schools and the Hickman Mills School District — as an expansion of the Missouri Preschool Project. Missouri was one of nine states that qualified for the enhancement grant because it serves fewer than 4 percent of its 4-year-olds with state dollars for early childhood education.

But reviewers of Missouri’s application found that the state failed to adequately define the expectations of a high quality program that would serve low-income children with disabilities or language and cultural differences and provide other comprehensive services.

That’s inexcusable. Missouri’s application also had gotten commitments from only 15 of the 28 sites.

Alabama, Nevada, Hawaii, Montana and Arizona received the development grants. Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Puerto Rico were denied, even though the need in the Show-Me State is obvious.

Nationwide, President Barack Obama wants to make preschool available to every child, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce this year announced that it was adding kindergarten readiness to its Big 5 projects.

Leaving federal money on the table for early education funding is no way to make quality preschool a reality for every child in Missouri. That’s an opportunity lost.

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