As we mentioned on Monday, leading up to the State of the State address next week, MBP will highlight where our state has been over the past decades, and how we can pave the way for a better tomorrow. Today’s focus is education.
We all want the best for our children. And all Missouri kids should start school ready to learn, at quality public schools that will help them reach their potential and become part of a well-educated, skilled workforce. But from early education through college, the value of Missouri’s investments in our youth has diminished, potentially jeopardizing the long-term well-being of a generation of children.
- Decreased investments in early childhood services like Parents as Teachers, child care assistance, and preschool compromise the development of important social and cognitive skills that pave the way for the school success of the youngest Missourians.
- By shortchanging school funding, our state is failing to meet its obligation to more than 800,000 K-12 students. It’s also passing the buck to localities, setting the stage for increased property taxes at the local level and funding disparities between school districts.
- Cuts to funding for public colleges and soaring tuition make it hard for working families to afford a college education while trying to make ends meet.
Quality early care and education help children develop the cognitive and social skills that help them succeed, and investments in early learning opportunities like home visits, child care, and preschool pay off for taxpayers in the long run. Unfortunately:
- Access to child care assistance for low-income families is well below the national average, ranking 49th in 2014. The number of children receiving subsidized child care has fallen, despite increased child poverty.
- Missouri has cut state funding for child care assistance by 35% since budget year 2008, and our state ranks near the bottom in its funding for preschool.
Quality public schools can give our children the start they need to pursue their dreams. But:
- In the current school year, the state is underfunding K-12 schools by more than $400 million.
- State funding is falling below the inflationary needs of schools. Between the 2000 and 2013 school years, state funding per student failed to meet inflationary cost increases in 5 out of 6 counties.
- Local governments have had to shoulder increased responsibility for funding education in their communities. As a result, 92% of counties raised property taxes during that time, setting the stage for enhanced funding disparities among districts.
Those with a college degree have higher incomes and are less likely to face employment. But it’s harder for working families to afford a college education when:
- Funding for public four year higher education has dropped since 2009, and tuition and fees have risen by nearly 15 percent.
- Unsurprisingly, over the same timeframe, debt for Missouri students has also increased, rising by about 23 percent between 2008 and 2013.
But there is a better way. We’ll talk more next week about how legislators can make policy changes in 2016 that will allow our state to invest in our children’s future and lay the foundation for a more prosperous Missouri.