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Missouri Lawmakers Restore Preschool Funding

About 4,000 Missouri preschoolers will have a place to go now that lawmakers have struck a compromise that restores more than $8 million to pay for state-funded preschool programs.

The money for the Missouri Preschool Project, part of nearly $12 million originally budgeted, had been caught in a feud that had centered on an official with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education who had become the public face of efforts to secure a federal grant.

The lawmaker who led the charge to hold the funding hostage says she hadn't intended to do away with the Missouri Preschool Project, which provides grants to public and private preschools, according to the St. Louis-Post Dispatch. Rather, Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Republican from part of St. Louis County, says she was targeting the actions of the department and the official, who'd defied a signed resolution by a group of key lawmakers prohibiting an application for the federal Race to the Top Learning Challenge grant.

The lawmakers are against the idea of setting up a rating system for child-care providers, one of the requirements for receiving the funding. Missouri ultimately wasn't chosen to receive a grant.
Cunningham told the newspaper that her tactics were "a means to a positive end that will thrill early-childhood and preschool providers."

The compromise restored just about $8.3 million of the original $11.8 million in funding and calls for the preschool funding to be transferred to the state Office of Administration, rather than the education department.

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