Educators seek new funding for early education after tobacco tax hike fails

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Educators are looking for a way to fund early childhood programs after Missouri voters turned down a tobacco tax proposal. Educators said Amendment 3 would have provided up to $300 million for education.

"I think it's disappointing we don't have more support for the ways early childhood supports families. Early childhood isn't just about kids. It's an economic development issue, and it's a workforce development issue," said Kimberly Shinn-Brown, the director of OACAC Head Start.

Here is how a single mom to a two-year-old describes the environment at her local Head Start in Springfield.

"It's safe. It makes me feel like shes safe, and I'm aware of everything, and me and her are really close, because she knows mommy's close," said Niesha Hudson.

Parents also use the word opportunity to describe the early learning environments, not just for their children, but for the entire family.
Without it, Hudson said she would not be the role model she would like to be.

"If I didn't, we probably wouldn't be working. I'd probably be trying to stay home and raise my child," Hudson said.

The children who are fortunate enough to be enrolled have a much higher likelihood of being ready for kindergarten. Greene County numbers show a full 28 percent of our kids are not ready, meaning they are statistically less likely to do well in school.

"Early childhood isn't just about kids. It's an economic development issue, and it's a workforce development issue," Shinn-Brown said.

"Early childhood is bigger than childcare. It is not just childcare,"

She had high hopes for the tobacco tax proposal in a state that currently has the lowest tobacco tax rate in the nation.

"It looks challenging at this point. That was our best hope for some additional revenue, and it would've been a huge amount of revenue," Shinn-Brown said.

Early childhood supporters said they have tried and failed to get funding measures through the state legislature. That is why they worked toward the ballot issue which was backed, in part, by tobacco companies. They now plan to go back to state lawmakers to try for additional funding.