Report | April 11, 2024

Early Childhood Educators Set Missouri’s Kids on the Path to Success

A qualified, well-compensated teaching staff is key to quality early education and future public safety

The law enforcement members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids in Missouri recognize that high-quality early childhood education (ECE) programs are a powerful way to give kids the right start in life and help them avoid becoming involved in crime later. Research shows that to have a real impact, programs must be high quality, in order to help children develop the critical academic and social skills needed for success in school and life. Among the most fundamental ECE quality features are highly-qualified teachers who are well-trained before and during their service and who need to be fairly compensated.

When children start their lives in positive, high-quality learning environments, they hit elementary school ready to learn and are less prone to getting into trouble or criminal activity.

Bolivar Police Chief Mark Webb

Unfortunately, Missouri’s early education system does not adequately meet the needs of parents, children, or early educators. Lack of access to preschool places children from families with low incomes at risk of starting school already behind their more advantaged peers. Child care, particularly for infants and toddlers, is often not available and is unaffordable for many families, particularly those with low incomes. Inadequate compensation and subpar working conditions for early educators result in high levels of turnover, impacting the availability and quality of programs. The pandemic exacerbated these longstanding challenges and resulted in a loss of 30,400 child care educators nationwide since February 2020. Missouri has lost 1,100 providers over two years.

State and federal policymakers can help alleviate this crisis by supporting evidence-based policies that enhance the availability and affordability of high-quality child care, including addressing the needs of the child care workforce. Recommended policies include raising child care subsidies to the federally-recommended 75th percentile of market rate, appropriating matching funds for local investments in early childhood education, and passing effective child care tax credits. Providing young children with high-quality early learning opportunities can improve the experiences of Missouri children and families today and help reduce the human and fiscal costs of crime in the future.


  1. Missouri