JEFFERSON CITY – Last week, Governor Mike Parson announced that the State of Missouri has received a $33.5 million grant aimed at coordinating a more effective, high-quality early learning system that better prepares Missouri children for success.
The “Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5)” provides funding over three years to implement an interagency effort to provide regional access to coordinated early childhood services to better meet a family’s needs, enhance and streamline training opportunities for early learning professionals, and improve systems to better inform decision-making about early learning.
“This is great news for our state that will allow our agencies and programs to come together and focus on the same goals to better serve communities across Missouri,” Governor Parson said. “The most important and impactful time of a child’s development is the early years of his or her life. With this funding, we now have the opportunity to leverage existing infrastructure and data systems to strengthen our early childhood offerings, which is crucial to the development of a strong Missouri workforce.”
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will lead this effort for the state and work closely with other state agencies and organizations throughout the three-year process, including the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Mental Health, and the Missouri Head Start State Collaboration Office.
“Our team worked hard to compete for these much-needed dollars,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said. “We look forward to working with our colleagues across the state to reshape the early learning landscape in Missouri and, ultimately, provide better access to early learning opportunities for all Missouri families.”
“Collaboration among these many different agencies is essential to provide the full range of responsive services and support Missouri’s young children and families really need,” said Missouri Head Start State Collaboration Office Director Stacey Wright.
Missouri first received $6.5 million in PDG B-5 funding in January 2019 for a one-year grant, which aimed to strengthen interagency collaboration and perform a statewide needs assessment. The grant also provided resources to build a strategic plan to develop measurable early childhood indicators that ultimately lead to children who are safe, healthy, and ready to learn.
This renewal grant builds upon the work done in 2019 and provides the funds to address the areas of early learning that need to be improved in Missouri, especially for the state’s most vulnerable children.
“Low-income families have the greatest challenge in finding affordable, quality child care, especially in rural areas,” said Department of Social Services Acting Director Jennifer Tidball. “This grant enables those children to have safe care, an opportunity to learn, and access to essential services so they get the best possible start in life.”
Forty-five other states and territories submitted applications for this funding. Approximately half of those applicants were awarded PDG B-5 funding.