Governor Nixon told and education groups that he’s fully committed to public education and committed to re-shaping Missouri’s educational system into one that prepares young people for a changing economy.

Nixon reiterated his pledge to fully fund public schools in the coming budget, saying that’s non-negotiable. He told the Missouri School Boards’ Association the concept of public school must expand.

"I also think we need to have greater investment in early childhood education; Parents as Teachers, First Steps and many other programs of that nature, making sure that kids are ready to learn when they get to school that first time," Nixon told the group gathered at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City.

Nixon said he supports expanding the alternative school system to remove disruptive students from the regular classroom.

The group applauded when Nixon stated that fully funding the Foundation Formula, the state’s system for funding public schools, was non-negotiable, but probably applauded the loudest when Nixon stated that he would fight any form of school voucher system.

Then, the governor raised the stakes. He said the concept of vouchers had been introduced in state funding of college scholarships. Nixon claimed that Access Missouri provided more money for students attending private colleges than those attending public colleges. He pledges to equalize the distribution of scholarship funds through Access Missouri.

The state has been moving to make a stronger connection among the various levels of education. Nixon says that the connection from Kindergarten through college must be strengthened, because the changing global economy now demands more than a high school diploma.

"In the new economy, a high school degree or a GED is not going to be enough to compete for some of the newer jobs we’re going to see out there," Nixon stated. "So, I think that as part of the public education continuum, supporting opportunities beyond high school are very, very important."

And, with a nod to the association, Nixon said what will keep public schools strong is not what happens in the legislature, but by the tools provided school boards to truly exercise local control.

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)
Download/listen Gov. Nixon addresses Missouri School Boards’ Association (18:30 MP3)