Campaign for children tours state

Friday, September 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Leaders from two advocate groups for Missouri’s children rode a school bus across Missouri Thursday — including a stop in Columbia at West Junior High School — to begin the “Missouri’s No. 1 Question Campaign.”

The two groups, Partnership for Children and Citizens for Missouri’s Children, say the No. 1 question for voters and politicians should be, “Is it good for the children?”

“The question can easily become lost,” said Janice Ellis, president of the partnership.

The goal of the statewide, three-year campaign is to get voters to petition their legislators to fund programs for quality, affordable early child education and after-school programs, Ellis said.

Beth Griffin, the executive director of Citizens for Missouri’s Children, said she wants more parents, educators and business leaders to advocate and talk about children’s issues.

“We want children to be a higher priority at the state and local level,” she said.

Griffin said “devastating actions” by policymakers have hurt Missouri’s children. She said legislators have not prioritized or adequately funded education.

Crystal Williams, vice president of Partnership for Children, said the long-term goal is sustainable funding for quality early childhood education and after-school programs. She said she does not want to “warehouse children.”

Williams said she wants to fully fund programs such as Early Head Start and Parents as Teachers and make them available for more children. She said there is an unmet need in the state: For example, there are hundreds of children on the waiting list for Early Head Start. Williams said she wants to accommodate all children.

“Things are wonderful and hopeful,” Griffin said. “But they are not as good as they could be.”

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