Child Care Program Fights for Funding

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COLUMBIA - Local child care facilities spoke out on Friday, hoping to stop cuts to funding. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a plan to cut child care funding. If approved by the House of Representatives, the fifteen million dollar budget cut will affect local preschools like Mary Lee Johnston Community Learning Center. "This is a field that needs the financial support so that our children can enter school ready to succeed, so that our college students will be successful, so that our community will be successful. And it's not going to happen unless we put the focus on our children," said learning center Executive Director Meg Bartlett.

The preschool usually serves at full capacity, and seventy-six percent of it's patrons are below the national poverty line, according to USDA standards. Bartlett is working to alert staff and parents, and take action against the cuts. Bartlett created fliers stating how the budget cuts could drop Missouri to the bottom of the list when it comes to providing child care assistance. The flier included a child care protection hotline to connect concerned parents to lawmakers like Kurt Schaefer, who are endorsing the plan.

"While nobody wants to make a cut to most programs, a modest cut like this is an unfortunate fact of life," said Schaefer.

The committee looked at state-wide budget cuts from the last three years and decided to make the next cuts from things that haven't yet seen a reduction. Schaefer said the budget cut is small when looking at the overall child care program that receives 190 million dollars. Of the 15 million dollars being cut, 2.7 million will come from child care assistance and subsidies to help working parents pay for daycare expenses. The remaining sum will cut grants for equipment, new spaces and training for the day care centers.

While some funding is provided for parents to transition off the subsidies that help pay for child care, Bartlett is convinced it isn't enough. "Any cut is a cut that will affect the children," said Bartlett.

The only way Schaefer sees the child care budget cuts from happening is if the tax amnesty bill is approved. The bill would collect past due taxes and generate $70 million dollars, but Schaefer doesn't think it's likely to pass. "All I can do is look at the amount of money we have to budget, and make a plan that fits that budget," said Schaefer.

The appropriations committee will present the budget for the 2013 fiscal year next week on the Senate floor.