WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Missouri Auditor, Governor and Senator Kit Bond is urging D.C. lawmakers to renew funding for a program that directly benefits the Parents as Teachers, a program founded in Missouri under his time as governor.
The Missouri General Assembly passed the Early Childhood Education Act to establish Parents as Teachers as a statewide program in 1984, a success Bond called his “greatest accomplishment as governor” to The Missouri Times.
Parents as Teachers is just one of a number of home-visiting programs across the country that is aimed largely at personal home visits from parent educators trained to help with the emotional, scholastic and physical development of low-income children and families.
In 2010, Congress passed funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV), which provides federal funds for families with children aged zero to five to seek services that include home visiting. Parents as Teachers, as the largest and perhaps most recognizable home visiting organization, is helping lead the National Home Visiting Coalition in a sustained lobbying effort to renew MIECHV funds, which are due to expire on March 31.
The funds were originally appropriated for 2010-2014, and last year supporters secured an extension by adding language to the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate. Supporters hope that the same strategy will work this time around.
“There seems to be some bipartisan support for this effort,” said Scott Hippert, CEO and President of the Parents as Teachers National Center. “This is an evidence-based model. Every analysis shows that home visiting has a dramatically positive impact on health and literacy and development for young children.”
Hippert said Parents as Teachers, along with MIECHV funds, would not have been possible without Bond — who championed MIECHV funding and is now on the Board of Directors for PAT, serving as one of their chief advocates in D.C.
“He saw the results of Parents as Teachers and he’s a believer and a champion of home visiting,” Hippert said. “The initiative is in place because of his leadership. Senator Bond and his name and his voice still carry considerable weight.”
To that end PAT, along with the entire National Home Visiting Coalition members, signed a lengthy letter to members of leadership in both chambers of congress urging renewal of the funds, which Hippert said would negatively impact thousands of families if cut.
“We look at this not as spending, but as an investment,” Hippert said. “This is an investment in young children that will pay off, we have the evidence. One of the biggest advantages to federal investment is that it’s designed to encourage and leverage investments from other sources.”
Hippert worries that an end to federal funds would have a ripple effect and cause other sources of funds to evaporate, he encourages anyone who is passionate about the issue to contact their representatives in Congress.
In Missouri, lawmakers gave initial approval to the state’s budget that includes a $2.5 million increase in state funds for PAT. The increase was originally slated for $3.5 million, but was decreased and the extra million was instead appropriated to Teach for America.
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman