If today's press conference at Oak Brook Elementary in the Parkway School District is any indication, Gov. Jay Nixon hopes to make investment in education a focal point as he starts his second term.
Details - including exact dollar amounts - will have to wait for Monday's State of the State address. But the Democrat Nixon says the new money will span from early childhood to college. His initiatives include:
- Boosting funding for the Missouri Preschool Project, which helps fund tuition at public and private preschools.
- Lengthening the K-12 school year. Currently, Missouri students must attend school for just 174 days - the 4th shortest school year in the nation.
- Expanding eligibility for the A+ scholarship program, which provides two years of tuition at public community colleges or technical schools. Right now, eligible students must also attend a school that's received an A+ designation. Nixon hopes to remove that extra requirement. (A 2011 effort to make the A+ scholarship means-based failed.)
With state revenues improving, Nixon said, education is the best place to put additional resources.
"We've got to love public education so much we're going to keep improving it in the state," he said. "We owe it to our kids as we move forward in an evolving world marketplace to assist them."
Nixon says Republicans will also first hear specifics on Monday, but says education doesn't need to be a political issue.
"This isn't about being a Republican or a Democrat," he said. "This is about saying, let's support public education and give them additional resources. We certainly give them additional responsibilities."
Nixon also revealed plans to fund mental health training for educators as a way to boost school safety. The training, he says, will allow teachers and other school staff to identify a student who might pose a threat in the future.
"We’re also going to work to restore some of those resource officers out into the law enforcement network, so that if people do need a placement, even if it’s a short placement to deal with a very tense situation, that those law enforcement partners won’t have to act alone," he said.
St. Louis Public Radio will have a live broadcast of Nixon's fifth State of the State address on Monday night.
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