Click to hear the full delivery of Governor Nixon’s speech:

Governor Jay Nixon

During the event, Nixon discussed his plans for improving education opportunities for students throughout the state.  The Governor said the effort will include the expansion of the A-Plus program.  “It’s a relatively simple and straight-forward bargain we make,” said Nixon,” There are schools that want to be excellent and students that want to compete, so we help those kids.  If they keep their grades where they need to be, if they show up for school, and do their mentoring then we help them by awarding them a scholarship for two years to any community college in the state.  The goal is not only will Orrick join the A Plus program, but it will be a program that is available in every single school in the state of Missouri.”

Nixon went on to stress the importance of allowing all students access to this plan.  “There is no student that shouldn’t have the opportunity if they work hard and play by the rules to get the same benefit that other students do which is a two year scholarship for the two first years of school or for certification,” said Nixon,” Having that in every district in the state is something we’re going to work on this year.”

According to the Governor, his proposals will also include an expansion of opportunities for Missouri’s youngest students. “Kids need to be ready to learn when they show up for kindergarten,” said Nixon,” Study after study shows that preschool programs can make a real and lasting difference.  We’ve been through some challenging budget times in the state, but the clear thing I’m telling you is that as we move forward we’re going to be presenting a solid step forward to expand, all across the state, opportunities for preschools in our public schools.”

The last item discussed Friday afternoon was a possible extension of the school year.  “The amount of time you spend doing something has a lot to do with how good you get at doing it,” said Nixon,” The laws of this state have Missouri with the fourth shortest school year required by law of any state in the country.  Right now we’re at 174 days.  We’ll be proposing the funding for taking that from 174 to 180 days.”

State Senator David Pearce also expressed his intentions to remain focused on Missouri students in the new term.  “Governor Nixon and his administration have done a wonderful job in supporting public education,” said Pearce,” I’ve had the chance to be the Senate Education Chair for three of those years that the Governor’s been there and I can’t tell you how great it is to have an ally in the Governor’s office for public education.  We have worked on many issues together and we will work on many more together in the future.”

Nixon is expected to further outline these, as well as addition legislative issues, in his State of the State Address on the 28th of January.

Press release from the Office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Ray county, Mo. – Gov. Jay Nixon today visited Orrick High School to recognize its progress in becoming an A+ designated school and to discuss his plans for improving educational opportunities for all Missouri students.

During his visit, the Governor outlined his proposal for investing in high-quality preschool programs and extending Missouri’s school year to the national average of 180 days. The Governor also discussed the need to expand this important academic opportunity by helping all Missouri schools achieve A+ designation by the end of this school year through an accelerated application process.

“From pre-k to college, we must provide our young people with a seamless path to academic success,” Gov. Nixon said. “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.”

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 is academically prepared should have the chance to go to college, regardless of where they live” Gov. Nixon said. “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.”

Orrick High School is on track to receive A+ designation later this spring.

“Becoming an A+ school will provide our graduates with more opportunities to access a higher education here in Missouri,” said Orrick Superintendent Aerin O’Dell. “We commend Gov. Nixon’s efforts to bring this positive initiative to more student, schools and communities throughout the state.”

Since 1997, almost 125,000 high-achieving Missouri students have qualified for A+ scholarships, and more than 50,000 have taken advantage of those financial incentives for at least one semester. In total, Missouri students have received more than $250 million in A+ scholarships since 1997. Since Gov. Nixon took office, 148 schools have earned the A+ designation, bringing the state total to 402 public high schools in Missouri.

Participation by Missouri students in the A+ program has grown by 30 percent during Gov. Nixon’s tenure in office. Throughout his administration, Gov. Nixon has ensured that continued state funding is available to provide these scholarships for the record number of students participating in A+. For fiscal year 2014, the budget Gov. Nixon will propose later this month will include funding to support the A+ program in every qualifying Missouri school district.

During his visit, the Governor also discussed the need for Missouri’s school year to be extended to the national average of 180 days. Missouri’s school year is currently only 174 days – the fourth shortest school year in the country.

“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,” Gov. Nixon said. “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.”

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,” Gov. Nixon said. “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. The Governor will present his recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2014 that day to the General Assembly as well.