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The Messiah Lighthouse Child and Family Development Center hosted an event April 14 to raise awareness, with Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams among those strongly urging increases in funding as well as tax credit incentives for public preschool and family and provider subsidies for child care.
These subsidies were at the center of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s State of the State address in January. The proposals have passed the state House, but are awaiting action by the state Senate. This includes $78.5 million in child care subsidies to help low-income families. The Missouri General Assembly adjourns May 12, lending a sense of urgency to speakers at Friday’s event.
Terra Pascarosa, associate director of mobilization for Council for a Strong America, said 32 Missouri law enforcement leaders and retired generals sent a letter to Gov. Parson and members of the General Assembly supporting the proposed investments in early childhood care and education.
“We’re hopeful that the General Assembly will expand support for preschool, improve child care subsidies … and pass a number of tax credits to help businesses, child-care providers and families cope with the high costs of child care,” said Pascarosa.
‘I want to make sure that the kids like those sitting in the classroom right behind us get the support they need’
Among the speakers at the April 14 event was Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams, who is a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
Williams said he knows children who don’t get quality support in early education are more likely to be involved in criminal behavior as teens and adults.
“We’ve seen an increase in 13- to 17-year-olds in Springfield involved in violent criminal activity, not just minor criminal activity,” said Williams. “We’re dealing with those kids now, as criminals, which is unfortunate. I want to make sure that the kids like those sitting in the classroom right behind us get the support they need.”
Williams detailed the status of Parson’s budget proposal and encouraged the General Assembly to move forward on these proposals.
This week, the Springfield Mayor’s Commision for Children published its latest study on the readiness for students to enter kindergarten and found that 24 percent of students entering kindergarten were not prepared. The study found those who did not attend preschool were less likely to be prepared: 54% of those kids were not ready for kindergarten. “We absolutely see the effect later on in life. And not just in the community but certainly in crime,” said Williams.
If more funding is provided to get children in preschool programs, Williams sees the long-term effects as preventing behavior problems, which in turn help fight crime and keep people out of the criminal justice system as an adult.
Following basic rules ‘would make my job a heck of a lot easier’
Jacob Shellabarger, prosecuting attorney for Audrain County and member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, faces the same issues in Mexico, Missouri, where quality child care is scarce as providers are understaffed or overworked. Shellabarger also encouraged passage of Parson’s proposals. “That includes expanded pre-k services so three- and four-year-olds can have access to high quality early education. That’s very impactful in supporting the success of children’s schooling throughout their lives,” said Shellabarger.
Shellabarger sees the importance of rules the students are taught at the Messiah Lighthouse Child and Family Development Center. Keeping your hands to yourself, not hurting others and loving your neighbor are all things beneficial to the community.
“And as a prosecutor, if more people would just follow those rules, it would make my job a heck of a lot easier,” he said.
Daryl McCall, retired U.S. Army brigadier general, recounted how important child care is over babysitting and knows of the importance of pursuing programs that bolster development of toddlers and helps children improve academic performance, learn self control and teamwork. “Child care provides a structured framework where you have learning that provides some sort of form of mental stimulation, you have physical activity for exercise, and you have nutrition for a healthy diet. Babysitting may not include any or all of those,” said McCall.
Jessica Phillips, program director at the Messiah Lighthouse Child and Family Development Center, has seen the struggles firsthand that families face when it comes to finding quality child care that is affordable. “I have had to turn away many families looking for spots without many options of places to refer them to,” said Phillips. “Oftentimes, if they do find a spot then they struggle to afford the tuition.”
The Council for a Strong America is a national, bipartisan nonprofit that unities membership organizations under an umbrella. These include: Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, which includes law enforcement leaders; Mission: Readiness, which includes retired military admirals and generals; and ReadyNation, which includes business executives. Each member advocates for evidence-based measures that help prepare the next generation of citizens to be well-educated, physically fit, and prepared to lead productive lives.