Support for child care and early education initiatives continue to be a top priority for local business and community leaders, as well as Governor Mike Parson.
“Not only has the historical lack of access to early learning and child care programs been a problem for the educational success of Missouri children, it’s a workforce problem for families and businesses all across our state,” Governor Mike Parson said. “Families already have a lot to consider when deciding whether to work or stay home. What we don’t want is lack of child care options to be the contributing factor, and that’s why our administration will continue prioritizing early learning initiatives and supports. These are commonsense measures that are good for business, great for families, and best for Missouri children.”
Parson made child care a priority earlier this year and highlighted the issue in his 2023 State of the State Address. Parson mentioned that one-third of public facilities still remain closed after the pandemic, creating even more issues for parents.
Business leaders have also made child care access a priority. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a poll, conducted by CHS and Associates, that surveyed more than 500 of Missouri CEOs and business leaders. The poll showed that businesses are very concerned about lack of childcare in the state. 80 percent of respondents agreed that “the expense and difficulty in finding child care keeps a significant number of Missourians out of the workforce”.
“Our workforce shortage is the most crucial challenge facing Missouri employers — with childcare remaining a significant barrier for many Missourians who want to work. Missouri’s economy loses more than $1.35 billion annually due to the lack of childcare access,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Rural parts of the state have also been affected, especially by child care deserts, geographic areas with lack of available child care options for families.
“Missouri’s child care crisis is having a real and damaging impact on children, families, communities, families and local economies all across the state. Of the 73 counties designated child care deserts, 70 of them are located in rural counties. We are incredibly grateful to see bold leadership from Governor Parson, policymakers and budget officials in Jefferson City who continue to work to find solutions to solve this crisis,” said Sarah Gould, the Early Learning Center Director at Community Support Services of Missouri in Webb City,
Early childhood education and child care has had support from both ends of the political spectrum, according to a poll shared by the Missouri Champion of Children coalition. According to the poll, More than 90% of voters believe having childcare options for families helps to recruit and maintain businesses while supporting the economy.
Legislation regarding child care has been introduced in both chambers of the General Assembly. Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City) and Rep. Brenda Shields (R-St. Joseph) filed SB 742 and HB 1488. These bills included tax incentives for businesses and individuals for charitable contributions to child care providers.
“Through collaboration and compromise, and the leadership of Governor Parson and leaders in the General Assembly, we are getting results for Missouri kids and families,” said Brian Schmidt, Executive Director of Kids Win Missouri. “But more work remains. We look forward to additional progress in the 2024 legislative session.”
The 2024 legislative session begins on January 3.