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Amendment 3 announces more endorsements


Supreme Court decision looms

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The campaign in support of Amendment 3 announced endorsements on each end of the state Monday as the Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment prepares for a Missouri Supreme Court decision Tuesday.

In St. Louis, the Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition endorsed Amendment 3. The group represents more than 200 agencies and consumer groups on issues relating to health care for women and children in the St. Louis area.

“We believe that all families have the equal right to barrier-free access to health and wellness programs,” said Kendra Copanas, executive director of the Maternal, Child & Family Health Coalition. “If Amendment 3 passes, our state would receive $300 million every year in guaranteed funding. That would be a tremendous win for the health of moms and babies, particularly in the area of infant mortality, thanks to the millions of dollars going to smoking-cessation programs for pregnant mothers.”

Kansas City child care groups also endorse

Across the state in Kansas City, three community groups also endorsed Amendment 3: Operation Breakthrough, St. Mark Child and Family Development Center and Emmanuel Family and Child Development Center.

Operation Breakthrough runs a single-site early education and social services facility in Kansas City, serving 400 children daily from the urban core.

“Early childhood programming at Operation Breakthrough is essential to helping children who are growing up in poverty to reach their full potential,” said Mary Esselman, president & CEO of Operation Breakthrough. “Every day more than 400 children enter our doors. Our focus on their social/emotional, physical, cognitive and language development is essential to ensuring their health, well-being, and long-term success.”

St. Mark Child and Family Development Center also provides early childhood education and care for low income and very low income children in the city, serving more than 100 families.

“Beyond what happens in early childhood classrooms, this initiative will have a lasting impact on the economic viability of our state,” said Deidre Anderson, Executive Director of St. Mark Child and Family Development Center. “When parents do not have to worry about their children, when they have the confidence in who cares for their children while they are at work or school, when access to early childhood and health services increases, the impact is certain to be more than we can imagine.”

Emmanuel Family and Child Development Center also focuses on poor families in Kansas City.

“A $300 million dollar investment into quality early education and health in Kansas City is crucial for children to enter kindergarten with the tools needed to succeed,” said Deborah Mann, executive director of Emmanuel Family and Child Development Center.

Additional resources, like those that Amendment 3 provides, open the door to quality, age appropriate learning environments which stimulate growth and development and enables programs to hire degreed teachers who are trained and qualified to provide continuity of care.”

Monday’s endorsements joined a number of other groups to come out in support of the amendment over the past several weeks, including Child Care Aware earlier this month. Politicians like Kansas City and St. Louis Mayors Sly James and Francis Slay are also supporters of the amendment.

“Now is the time for Missouri to invest in the earliest years of our children’s lives,” said Linda Rallo, co-founder of Raise Your Hand for Kids, the committee which collected signatures for the ballot measure. “Amendment 3 provides a guaranteed revenue source for early childhood that politicians can’t touch.”

Not every interested group supports the amendment. Education groups including the Missouri Rural Education Association and the Missouri Retired Teachers Association have opposed the amendment because they believe it will allow public funds to illegally be spent at religious institutions.

Supreme court decision expected soon

Monday’s endorsements come as the Missouri Supreme Court is set to hand down a decision in a legal challenge to the amendment’s standing on the ballot.

Opponents, including the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, have argued that because the official ballot title and language of the initiative petition were changed by an appellate court, signatures collected should be invalid. But last month a judge said that because the changes came after the deadline for signatures to be turned in, it was not improper for Secretary of State Jason Kander to certify the petition for the ballot.

Arguments in the case were heard last week and a decision is expected Tuesday.