January 09, 2013 - Gov. Jay Nixon today — Jan. 11 — discussed his plans for improving educational opportunities for all Missouri students, including extending the school year by six days.
Nixon's comments were made during a visit to the John Thomas School of Discovery and the Nixa School District's Early Learning Center to recognize the district for its continued academic excellence.
Nixa Public Schools have been accredited '"with distinction" for 11 consecutive years by the state.
"From pre-K to college, we must provide our young people with a seamless path to academic success," Nixon stated in a news release. "We can do this by investing in early childhood education, making sure that there are enough days in the school year to prepare our students for careers and college, and opening the doors of higher education for every Missouri student through the A+ program."
Nixon is calling for Missouri to extend its school year up to the national average of 180 days. Missouri's school year currently is only 174 days — the fourth shortest school year in the country. In contrast, the school year at Nixa's John Thomas School of Discovery has been lengthened to 194 days.
"To stay competitive in today's economy, Missouri's students should be in the classroom as much as their peers in other states. Extending Missouri's school year by just six instructional days will bring our state in line with the national average, while increasing educational opportunities for every student," Nixon stated. "Building on our record investment last year in K-12 classrooms, my budget for the upcoming fiscal year will include resources to support additional school days — because investing in our public schools is the right thing to do for our kids and our economy."
"Nixa's Early Learning Center offers an exceptional pre-kindergarten program to help young children become school-ready," Nixa Superintendent Stephen Kleinsmith stated in the release. "We've also lengthened the school year at our John Thomas School of Discovery and supported our teachers with the resources they need to succeed in their profession. As a result, our students are excelling academically and our school district has received national recognition as a leader in education. We applaud Gov. Nixon's leadership on education issues and we can attest to the effectiveness of his proposals."
"As one of Missouri's largest school districts, Springfield public schools are home to students from both rural and metropolitan areas," Springfield Superintendent Norman Ridder stated. "We know from experience that students from every background benefit from access to quality preschool programs and more time in the classroom. We appreciate Gov. Nixon's commitment to these important efforts and his continued work to expand educational opportunities for all Missouri children."
The governor also discussed the need help all Missouri schools achieve A+ designation by the end of this school year through an accelerated application process.
Under the A+ program, Missouri students can earn a scholarship to cover the cost of tuition and academic fees for two years at any public two-year community college or technical school in the state. To be eligible for the program, students must meet academic achievement standards, conduct and attendance requirements, and perform 50 hours of tutoring or mentoring service.
"Every Missouri student who has worked hard, played by the rules, and academically prepared should have the chance to go to college, regardless of where they live," Nixon stated. "That's why the budget I will propose for fiscal year 2014 will include funding to expand and expedite the A+ designation to every school district in Missouri. I call on those school districts that have not yet pursued A+ designation to seize this opportunity to put their students on the path to higher education."
Since Nixon took office, 148 schools have earned the A+ designation, bringing the state total to 402 public high schools in Missouri. Throughout his administration, Nixon has ensured that continued state funding is available to provide these scholarships for the record number of students participating in A+. For fiscal 2014, the budget Nixon will propose later this month will include funding to support the A+ program in every qualifying Missouri school district.
Additionally, the governor called for an increased investment in preschool education programs throughout the state, including new resources for pre-kindergarten programs in local school districts, and restoring cuts made last year by the General Assembly to childhood education initiatives such as Missouri's Early Head Start program.
"Early childhood education is a smart investment with a big return," Nixon stated. "By making sure our kids enter kindergarten ready to learn, we prevent much more difficult — and expensive — academic problems from developing down the road."
The governor will detail additional legislative and economic priorities during his 2013 State of the State Address at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, to a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly. Nixon will present his recommended budget for fiscal 2014 that day to the General Assembly as well.