A new report ranks Missouri as one of the least efficient states in the way federal funds are used for early childhood education. Linda Smith with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., which authored the report, ranks Missouri 45th in the nation.

Missouri gets low ranking for efficiency of federal funds in early childhood education

“I think we found that Missouri fell down on this one, to be honest with you, in terms of their organization at the state level,” Smith says. “There’s a lot of things that can be improved in the administration. We really can be more efficient with our money in the states. We will be able to serve more children, but we will not be able to serve all children. We consider it a win if we can just get the maximum number of children served with what we have.”

The state gets about 370 million annual federal dollars for early childhood development.

“There were four states that don’t draw down all of their federal money. Fortunately, Missouri does that. Do they put extra in? It does not look like there’s a lot of extra funding going in from the state (Missouri) itself,” she says.

Smith tells Missourinet her organization’s report is not a red state blue state issue.

“It is just something that I think is a challenge for our country. It’s a mixture of states. In some cases, some of the states that are the most challenged fiscally, have already dealt with this problem because they don’t have a lot of resources,” Smith says.

The other states below Missouri are Idaho, South Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming and Texas.

The states ranking well include Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Mexico, Arkansas, Maryland, Montana and Washington.

“It’s a struggle across this country to get enough resources to meet the needs of our families,” Smith says. “We have a lot of families in this country that live paycheck to paycheck and they are struggling to find affordable quality early care and education for their children.”

Smith says the Missouri for Childcare and Development Fund, Child and Adult Care Food Program and preschool initiatives should be consolidated.

“Those are all going into different agencies in Missouri. Our thinking is, and there’s strong reasons for these assumptions, is that when they’re crossing over major departments within a state, it is harder to coordinate these things and to make sure that they are aligned for families,” Smith says. “How those things are coordinated and how many times that parent has to apply for different things becomes a barrier for families,” she says.

Smith also recommends that governors form an independent group to do an analysis of the way the state’s structure works.

“I think what we’re seeing in many cases is a bureaucracy that is entrenched,” she says. “Sometimes we need somebody to step outside of the bureaucracy and take a look at this.”

She says governors have more latitude with the federal money than they probably realize.

The report is based on 2016 data, which would have been during former Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s administration.

She also suggests coordinating the quality rating improvement system with licensing of childcare programs – to prevent the duplication of evaluations, inspections and oversight.

“That again is an efficiency issue for state-level personnel,” Smith says.

Smith says ages birth to five years matter.

“You’re going to pay for it down the road if you don’t invest in the birth to five years to begin with,” says Smith. “I mean the schools will get these kids – they (the kids) may be delayed.”

To see the report, click here.

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