Local efforts seek to restore early childhood education funding
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Gov. Jay Nixon has cut spending in Missouri by more than $1.6 billion dollars during his first term in response to the economic realities of the recession and recovery. But some people in Cape Girardeau are pushing the governor to put some of that money back into early childhood education services.
The Early Childhood Development, Education and Care Fund administered by the Department of Social Services has been in existence since 1998. It's goal has been to provide funding to increase the capacity of, and access to, quality early childhood programs for all Missouri families through grant programs and child-care subsidies.
But the fiscal year 2013 budget passed last July contained more than $13 million in cuts to the fund and the programs it serves. Local organizations that counted on previous funding levels are feeling the loss.
"We've lost over $80,000 for Cape Girardeau," said Tom Davisson, executive director of the Community Caring Council, which receives funding from the Department of Social Services. "The money would have gone for the startup and expansion of child-care facilities in the community and for their accreditation. But there is no money in the budget for it this time around."
The startup and expansion programs Davisson referred to provide financial assistance for people wanting to become licensed child-care providers, and for expanding their facility with proper equipment and other items to benefit children.
"When we had those dollars last year, we could get proper equipment and toys to people who were starting up a child-care facility," Davisson said. "It was a great way to improve the quality of child care in the community."
Davisson said members of the Community Caring Council saw budget cuts coming, but they were hopeful that funding for child-care programs would be spared.
"What we're hopeful for now is a semblance of prior funding to be put on the legislative agenda in January," he said.
The Community Caring Council subcontracts with Educare, a state-funded program at Southeast Missouri State University that provides resources and training opportunities to child-care providers with an emphasis on family home providers. Educare was to be the beneficiary of the startup and accreditation funds from the Community Caring Council.
Dr. Shelba Branscum, chairwoman of the Department of Human Environmental Studies at Southeast and administrative director of Educare, said the program would have benefited greatly from the funding.
"In the last 10 years, we've been able to help 50 to 60 people in the area get started in the child-care business," Branscum said. "We were able to assist them with starting up and also becoming accredited. But with the Community Caring Council not being able to provide us with funding because of the budget, we've scrambled to find alternative funding."
Branscum is reaching out to local entities to keep Educare's programs running.
"We're holding on here," she said. "We're looking for just enough to make it with."
Janice Jones, of the United Way of Southeast Missouri's Success by 6 initiative, is part of a letter-writing campaign to Nixon to have the Early Childhood Development, Education and Care Fund moneys restored in fiscal year 2014.
"There are some really good programs that come from the fund that can provide young people with the head start they need in today's world," Jones said. "Success by 6 supports the letter-writing effort to the governor, and we're doing it because parents in the area want the best for their children. Quality child care is such an important part of that these days."
Whether a letter-writing campaign to the governor will have an affect on funding remains to be seen. Rebecca Woelfel, communications director for the Department of Social Services, empathizes with the effort and noted the governor has provided stable funding for the fund and its programs in years past.
"Unfortunately," she added, "the final budget passed by the General Assembly cut millions from early childhood programs throughout the budget. If funding is ultimately restored, it will be up to the General Assembly to do so."
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