We now have a unique opportunity to build a better future for our children. We must seize it.
And nothing will have a greater impact on our children's future than the commitment we make now to their education.
So in my budget, we increase funding for education. And we increase it by $150 million.
- That's $17 million more for early childhood education.
- That's $34 million more for higher education;
- And that's $100 million more for our K-12 classrooms.
Our children are our first priority. They are Missouri's future.
Of course, with increased funding, come higher expectations. We expect better test scores, better graduation rates, more college degrees and more Missourians ready to compete for the best jobs in a global economy.
We've all got to do better, and that means everybody: students and teachers; parents and principals; coaches and college presidents. Increased funding means increased accountability.
We know the early years of a child's life are critical. Over the past few weeks I've visited preschool classrooms in Greenville, Nixa, Parkway and St. Joseph - local communities committed to giving their kids a strong foundation for lifelong learning.
And the first official business of my second term was to meet with leaders in preschool education. We discussed ways to ensure that every young child comes to school ready to learn, and ready to succeed.
The clear consensus: early childhood education is a smart investment, with a big return.
We want every child, in every Missouri community - no matter their family's circumstances - to get the best possible start.
That is why, with an increase of $17 million, we'll more than double funding for our Missouri Preschool Program, and put more money into programs like Early Head Start.
Tonight, we are fortunate to be joined by the St. Louis Pre-School Teacher of the Year, Linda Smith, of Dewey International School. Joining her is St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Kelvin Adams.
Under Dr. Adams' strong leadership, the St. Louis schools have made steady progress over the past five years, as they work to earn full accreditation. That kind of progress is only possible when everyone pulls together toward a shared goal.
Mrs. Smith and Dr. Adams, please stand. Thank you for the lifelong commitment you've made to our children.
In the past four years, our schools have made steady gains.
Math scores are up. Reading scores are up.
And I'm proud to report that Missouri's high school graduation rate is now the seventh-highest in the nation.
But we must commit to even higher goals.
That's why my budget includes $100 million in new funding for our K-12 classrooms.