WEPOWER | St. Louis Public Radio

WEPOWER

A child grabs his backpack on his first day of preschool at the Affton Early Childhood Center on Aug. 13, 2019.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a swelling momentum to increase the number of children under the age of 5 receiving free early childhood education in the St. Louis region.

State funding for preschool remains minimal, but dollars are slowly growing and institutions are getting creative in ways to soak up more of those limited funds.

Wes Moore (left), author and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation spoke with Charli Cooksey (right), CEO of WEPOWER about ways to dismantle poverty not only in St. Louis, but nationally.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Poverty and racism should not be discussed separately in St. Louis, author Wes Moore said.

“You can't look at a region like this, and you can’t look at places like my hometown of Baltimore and think that the reason that we have the racial wealth gap is just simply because one group isn't working as hard as the other,” Moore said.

Moore is CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, and the author of several young adult novels, as well as his bestselling biography, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.” 

Children wait in line to grab their backpacks and find their classrooms during the first day of school at the Affton preschool center.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A community organizing group wants St. Louis and St. Louis County to spend more money on early childhood education.

In a report released Thursday, WEPOWER proposed a ballot initiative in November that would allow St. Louis County voters to consider a half-cent sales tax increase to expand access to pre-K. The group's members said that would raise about $84 million a year.

The report also urges St. Louis officials to designate 2% of the city's general fund budget — about $22 million a year —  to early childhood education.

Charli Cooksey (left), founder and CEO of WEPOWER, listens to entrepreneurs Reina Stovall (right) and Dr. Brittany Conners (middle) during one of Elevate/Elevar's focus group meetings on March 13, 2019.
WEPOWER

According to a report by Diversity VC and Rate My Investor, less than 1% of all venture capital funding supports black entrepreneurs and 1.8% of funding backs Latino founders.

The St. Louis organization WEPOWER aims to boost those percentages. Recently, the company initiated Elevate/Elevar, an accelerator program for black and Latino entrepreneurs. The goal is to increase their chances to build wealth and enhance economic growth in their communities.