The effort to rate early childhood education and before-and-after school programs the same way hotels are rated has been renewed at the Capitol.

Senator Charlie Shields of St. Joseph says the state spends three-billion dollars on K-through-12 education. But it spends little on getting children ready for their school years. He proposes a Quality Rating System that he hopes will encourage more early-childhood education programs to be better. He says the system also will tell parents where the better education opportunities are for their children.

The University of Missouri’s Center for Family Policy and Research has been operating pilot projects for a few years, and center director Kathy Thornburg says those programs are working. "Only about 13 percent of our programs are accredited by the six approved accrediting bodies of the state. The majority of the others…do not and most of them will not meet the standards of accreditation, which is the top level of quality," she says.

The state licenses child care facilities, but does not base the licensing on the quality of education available in them. Shields bill requires the Departments of Social Services, Health, and Elementary and Secondary Education to come up with a system to grade facilities with one to five stars.

A senate committee is expected to quickly send the bill to the floor for debate.


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