By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
CANTON, Mo. -- Gov. Jay Nixon took his call for $150 million in added educational funding to Canton R-V School District on Thursday.
"The No. 1 economic tool is education," Nixon said.
Students from kindergarten through 12 grade applauded as Nixon congratulated the Canton school for being accredited by the state "with distinction" for seven consecutive years. He said outstanding schools don't happen by accident.
Nixon called for $100 million in additional funding for K-12 classrooms during his state of the state speech on Monday. He asked for $34 million to boost college and university funding by 4 percent and a $17 million bump for early childhood education.
After years of tight state budgets, Nixon said it is time to invest in education as tax receipts have risen.
"Our economy is growing and unemployment has dropped to a four-year low," Nixon said.
He wants to see the state's A+ program extended to every school district in the state. Qualifying students can earn a scholarship to cover tuition and academic fees for two years at any two-year community college or technical school in the state. To receive the scholarships students must maintain academic standards, meet conduct and attendance requirements and perform 50 hours of tutoring or mentoring service.
Nixon said Missouri now has the seventh highest graduation rate in the nation and he hopes to see other educational gains for the state. One of Nixon's goals would be to lengthen the school year, which drew no applause from the students.
After his speech, Nixon asked Canton basketball star Austin Hoeing to come down from the bleachers and shoot some baskets with him.
Nixon missed several shots and smiled broadly as Hoeing sank his first free throw. Nixon autographed the basketball for Hoeing before holding a news conference for reporters.
Nixon said he knows the state needs to find funding sources for transportation projects. A plan to seek voter approval for a 1 cent sales tax "would be better in 2014" than it would be this year, Nixon said.
A state lawmaker's proposal to hold firearm safety training for first-graders was not endorsed by Nixon, who regularly hunts deer in neighboring Clark County. He said schools should be a haven for children.