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Access to early childhood education paramount to success

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

The importance of early childhood care and education is at the forefront of regional leaders’ minds once more as the St. Louis Early Childhood Council presents a program on such matters for the St. Louis region. So where does Missouri stand in providing the most early childhood options possible?

“The key issues in early childhood right now are around access,” said Katie Rahn, the executive director of Southside Early Childhood Center. “We are trying to figure out a way to meet the need of all the children who need care and education, but the supply of high-quality providers is just not sufficient. We’re looking at 56,000 childcare spaces at licensed centers in Missouri, and 104,000 children who are under the age of six whose parents are working and need care.”

Where the U.S. stands as a whole in regard to early childhood education is even more startling:

  • 26th in preschool enrollment
  • 26th in infant mortality
  • 22nd in quality of childcare
  • 16th in affordability
  • 31st in availability

On Monday, “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh dove into those statistics and took a look at the role expanding early childhood opportunities can play in the future of the region. Joining him:

  • Shelly Williams, Director, American Graduate Initiative, Nine Network of Public Media.
  • Michael Scully, Regional President, St. Louis and Southern Illinois, PNC Financial Services
  • Katie Rahn, Executive Director, Southside Early Childhood Center

A combination of corporate support, parent involvement and community buy-in are important for early childhood access to be increased.
We really have to get beyond the choir on this one,” Williams said. “By the age of 5, a child’s brain is over 80 percent matured. If we don’t take all the critical steps that we need to leading up to that point, think about how much time and opportunity you’ve lost there by not jumping in and having full support of the child.” 

Related Event

What: St. Louis Early Childhood Council Presents “Early Childhood: The Foundation of Our Region’s Future"
When: Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, 3:30 - 6:00 p.m.
Where: Nine Network of Public Media, 3655 Olive St., St. Louis, MO 63108
More information.

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.

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