KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A non-profit in the Midwest is working to make early childhood education in Kansas City more equitable and accessible.

The IFF studied early childhood education. It found just half of all K-12 students in Kansas City have access to early childhood education.

The study shows the barriers that exist and how leaders can work to remove them for parents and educators.

“Early education is the foundation upon which a child’s future success is built,” Davin Gordon with the Hall Family Foundation said.

“It is during these formative years that children develop essential cognitive, social and emotional skills that will shape their trajectory in life, yet we are acutely aware that not all children have equal access to quality early access education opportunities.”

IFF researchers found the average cost of childcare is more expensive than the average price of rent in Kansas and Missouri.

K-12 programs have also closed at a disproportionate rate in communities where people of color live, according to the study. It is a reality facing local childcare centers increasingly more since COVID.

“We unfortunately are among the statistics now and we have had the misfortune of needing to consolidate one of our centers with our metro center location with St. Marks’s Center for this year to come,” Deidre Anderson, CEO of EarlystART, said.

Researchers found that better teacher retention and training, compensation, and affordability are part of the solution.

Leaders said aligning pay scales and benefits with the K-12 system and raising the maximum income threshold for childcare subsidy will help to address those solutions.

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IFF did a similar study in St. Louis that helped find an additional two million dollars for the education system there. The goal moving forward is to share the results of this study with partners in Kansas City who are invested in closing the barriers to early childhood education.