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Sen. Jacob Puts Brakes on Early Childhood Education Iniatives

February 17, 1998
By: Margaret Murphy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The same day an early childhood education bill passed the Missouri House, Sen. Ken Jacob was putting the brakes on a similar initiative in the Senate.

"I haven't been sold on the concept, the funding source, and whether we shouldn't be funding programs that already exist," said Jacob, D-Columbia.

He made his remarks Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Education Committee, which was discussing a bill introduced by Sen. Roseann Bentley, R-Springfield.

Similar in spirit to the bill passed by the House that Gov. Mel Carnahan supported, Bentley's bill would allow local school boards to approve voluntary early childhood care and education programs for 3- and 4-year-olds.

Local school boards would be free to decide whether to provide the programs themselves, contract them out or not to participate in the program at all. Parents would pay for the programs based on a sliding scale.

But Jacob questioned whether public schools didn't already have full plates.

"I believe in early childhood education," Jacob said. "I just don't know if I believe in public schools taking on the task."

Committee members could not agree on a definition of early childhood education.

"Define for me early childhood education," said Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Gireadeau. "Does it not occur in the home?"

Jacob called the funding for the bill "problematic" because it counts on the courts allowing the so-called "boats in moats" casinos to be built on land connected by a moat to a river.

Jacob said he wants to debate the idea of what early childhood education is and who should receive state funding to run it before he signs on.

"The governor comes out and says this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and everyone nods their head and says, 'OK,' " Jacob said. "I just don't believe you can do that now."