St. Louis County Council Votes to Allocate $5.6 Million in ARPA Funds to Improve Local Early Childhood Education
The vote follows months of public testimony and advocacy from The Early Childhood Power & Policy Action Group members and supporters.
After months of negotiations and hearings, the St. Louis County Council passed a measure that puts $5.6M of ARPA dollars towards programs that improve teacher wages and retention. The Early Childhood Power & Policy Action Group, co-led by The Gateway Early Childhood Alliance and WEPOWER, spearheaded the effort to advocate for the allocation of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund the T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$® programs—programs that can improve early childhood educator wages and access to continued education.
The group’s proposal had the second highest number of points of all proposals from the ARPA rubric focused on equity and impact. The Early Childhood Power & Policy Action Group believes building a better tomorrow for St. Louis starts with our children. The Group’s mission is to ensure the local early childhood education system equitably supports every child and educator, and over the past year they organized a coalition of over 150 educators, parents, and supporters that have worked to push the ARPA funding measure across the finish line.
“In this moment when we are all only beginning to grieve the death and trauma this week brought, we needed this win. Our kids needed this win. Our educators needed this win. No single system created the symptoms of gun violence we saw at CVPA, nor will a single system or solution protect our children against such atrocities in the future. Protection looks like a lot of things, one of which is investing in early childhood education to guarantee our babies opportunities from birth. The Early Childhood Power & Policy Action Group and St. Louis County Council took a big step toward making that a reality tonight,” said Charli Cooksey, CEO of WEPOWER.
“Having access to these funds is a starting point for a better future for our childcare educators and the families they serve. Childcare educators deserve thriving wages that reflect the value of their work, including enough resources to care for their own families.” said MacKenzie Grayson, Director of Advocacy & Engagement for Gateway Early Childhood Alliance.
COVID-19 revealed that early childhood education (ECE) is essential, in a state of crisis, and inextricably linked to the St. Louis region's health, economic, and public safety outcomes. 50% of ECE educators participate in public assistance of some kind. St. Louis County has 450 child care programs with a licensed capacity of a little over 33,000 children and yet, St. Louis County has 66,562 children under the age of 6 with working parents.
The County Council’s $5.6M ARPA fund investment in ECE will go to the T.E.A.C.H. MISSOURI Scholarship Program and the Child Care WAGE$ programs which have the potential to support approximately 1200+ childcare educators in St. Louis County. The Child Care WAGE$® Program is an education-based salary supplement program that provides an incentive/bonus to ECE professionals based on their level of education and longevity in the child care field. The T.E.A.C.H. MISSOURI Scholarship Program contracts directly with the scholarship recipient and sponsoring child care employer to support tuition and book reimbursements, paid time off to study, semester expense stipend (for gas, technology, and other expenses), and an annual completion bonus for ECE educators that advance their education.