The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

State News

April 1, 2010

Missouri: Senate panel backs cut for childhood program

The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Senate budget writers want to cut funding by more than half for an early childhood development program that began in Missouri a generation ago and has since spread nationwide.

The national president of the Parents as Teachers initiative said Thursday that the “shortsighted” cut could eliminate help for tens of thousands of families with young children.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also has backed funding reductions for school busing, the Access Missouri college scholarship program, life sciences research and biodiesel producers, among other things. The panel is expected to make more cuts next week.

Gov. Jay Nixon has said the $23.9 billion budget plan he outlined in January now needs to be reduced by about $500 million because of declining tax revenues and uncertain federal funding. Lawmakers have until May 7 to pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The plan passed earlier this month by the House was more than $200 million smaller than Nixon’s proposal but relied on a $300 million extension of federal stimulus funds that has not yet been approved by Congress.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said he wants to save that money — if it comes — for the 2012 budget and thus is seeking to make deeper reductions for next year’s spending plan. Budget analysts have warned that Missouri’s 2012 budget could be particularly troublesome because of the end of federal stimulus funds that have been used to plug shortfalls.

Senate committee members offered little dissent to Mayer’s plan to cut funding for the Parents as Teachers program to $13 million — down from the nearly $31 million that had been budgeted for the program this year. Nixon already had made a midyear spending cut to the program, and he had recommended a $3.4 million reduction for next year.

Parents as Teachers provides developmental health screenings for infants and preschoolers and sends trained workers into their homes to provide child-rearing instruction. A 1984 Missouri law championed by then-Gov. Kit Bond required all Missouri school districts to offer the Parents as Teachers program. It has since spread to all 50 states and several foreign countries.

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