By Eastman, Bill
St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Kudos to Gov. Jay Nixon for his support to increase funding for early childhood strategies, such as pre-kindergarten, Head Start and other programs.
It is worth reminding Missourians that our state has been a national leader in early childhood education. Susan Blow founded the first kindergarten in 1873, and state funding for kindergarten began in 1967. In 1982 the Parents as Teachers pilot project began, and statewide funding was provided in 1984. Parents as Teachers has been such a success in Missouri that every other state and seven other nations now offer it to their children and families. It is one of Missouris greatest exports.
Investments in young families and children result in higher educational and life achievements while contributing to a strong economy. Furthermore, the benefits always exceed the costs. Studies show that for every dollar invested in early childhood services, the return on investment ranges from $3 to $17 from reduced remedial and medical costs. By its very nature, home visiting is a more cost- effective strategy than center-based services and more successful at serving hard-to-reach families.
Parents as Teachers touches families in every community in the state.
Last year nearly 56,000 families were enrolled in a local program. 75 percent of 3-year-olds in the program had up-to-date immunizations. Our programs provided free health and developmental screenings for more than 48,000 children; 19 percent were identified with potential issues and referred for follow-up services. We linked more than 11,000 Missouri families to community resources for additional support services and to the states children health insurance program.
However, during the economic downturn a few years ago, state funding for Parents as Teachers programs was reduced by almost 60 percent. …