Parents As Teachers targeted for cuts

Thursday, January 28, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 8:48 a.m. CST, Thursday, January 28, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — As state leaders prepare to write a budget with less cash in the coffers, they have pledged to protect public education from the axe.

But Parents As Teachers, a nationally recognized early-childhood education program funded by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, will receive less funding for the second straight year.

On Wednesday, the House Education Appropriations Committee heard testimony from members of the department who outlined Gov. Jay Nixon's proposed budget. Department Assistant Commissioner Gerri Ogle told the committee that the department tried to avoid requests for additional funding when drafting its budget request, which added up to more than $5.5 billion.

Under the governor's proposed budget, Parents As Teachers would receive $26.7 million, or $4.1 million less than the amount appropriated last year. That amount was more than $3 million less than the preceding year.

Parents As Teachers uses certified educators who train parents to educate children before they are able to attend kindergarten. The educators consult with parents through personal visits and provide health screenings for the children. The program, based in St. Louis, began in Missouri in the 1970s as a pilot plan and has spread to all 50 states. Nationwide, the program assists more than 330,000 children.

Lawmakers face significant challenges in making good on their promise to protect public education from deep cuts.

Despite the fact that Nixon has proposed an additional $18 million to help the state fully fund the K-12 Education Foundation Formula, a mathematical equation used to allocate state funds to the state's 523 public school districts, initial reports indicate that it still might not be enough to fully fund it.

State Budget Director Linda Luebbering told a Senate committee Tuesday that the state would need a $106 million increase for education to meet the foundation formula in the upcoming fiscal year.

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