Local principal reacts to expected increase in funding to pre-K programs

Southwest Early Childhood Center plans to accept more students with increased funding (KRCG 13)

Early childhood educators have expressed excitement for an expected increase in funding to pre-K programs statewide.

"There's a thrill in the air," Nicole Langston said. She's been a principal at Southwest Early Childhood Center (SECC) for eight years and said more funding will give them a chance to help more students.

According to communications coordinator Sarah Potter with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), for the first time in about 10 years, lawmakers have fully funded the school finance formula for Missouri Pubic Education.

This triggered a 2014 law that allows districts to receive money for pre-K programs. The law will allow districts who claim funds for 3-4-year-olds to provide free schooling for the equivalent of four percent of the district's students who qualify for free and reduced priced lunch.

Langston said they plan to use the money to increase enrollment capacity because they could then afford more teachers.

She has heard from parents that they are excited about the opportunity their child can enroll at SECC because there has been a wait list of 300 or more students.

"Before we were only serving kids who lived in poverty and now we'll be able to serve anyone because all kids needs," Langston said. "You don't need to live in poverty to have a need. So we're really excited about more funding because that will provide that opportunity."

SECC had about 105 students in preschool and 130 in their early childhood special education program.

If every district and charter school in the state started pre-K programs and claimed funds in the 2018-2019 school year, Potter estimates the total cost to be roughly $68 million.

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