Back on our feet: Rebuilding Kansas in 2018

At Kansas Action for Children (KAC), we look back at the 2018 legislative session with gratitude and pride.

GRATITUDE to lawmakers who made prudent choices and to the great number of Kansans who took action to support important work on behalf of Kansas kids. PRIDE because we collaborated — staff and lawmakers and friends — to shape the state budget and enhance funding for early learning programs. Kansas is positioned to continue making sensible budget and tax policy that allows for investments in our shared priorities: great early education, affordable health care, and thriving communities for children and families.

Let’s remember where we were at this time last year, back in 2017. A bipartisan majority in the House and Senate had just ended the Brownback tax “experiment.” A half-decade of cuts, disinvestments, and credit downgrades had come to an end. It was an amazing accomplishment, made possible by advocates across the state. But ending the tax plan was just the beginning.

We knew that kids across the state wouldn’t succeed without resources, and we knew that advocacy had to continue. So we rolled up our sleeves and got back to work. Both chambers passed a budget that begins to reinvest in our state’s essential services, enhancing funding for K-12 education, early childhood and higher education, infrastructure, and state services. Serious work remains — but this is a great start. In addition to the other critical investments from the Children’s Initiatives Fund (CIF) that lawmakers established in the two-year budget in 2017, they took the following actions for kids:

  • $4.2 million from the CIF will go back to supporting the Kansas Preschool Program, an investment caught in the monetary shell-game of sessions past, meaning more Kansas students are eligible to benefit from preschool opportunities that prepare them to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
  • $1 million more in FY 2018 and $1 million in FY 2019 will support tiny-k, also known as Infant-Toddler Services, to provide mandatory early intervention services for infants and toddlers with special needs.
  • $1 million more from the CIF will allow Parents as Teachers to provide life-changing home visiting services to more Kansas families.
  • $1 million from the CIF will begin Communities Aligned in Early Development and Education, a pilot program to increase early learning opportunities in Wyandotte County.
  • Lawmakers began repairing past damage done to investments in kids by restoring $2.4 million from the CIF previously cut from the Early Childhood Block Grants, the Child Care Quality Initiative, Autism Diagnosis, Family Preservation, and the Healthy Start/Home Visitor program, putting CIF investments back at levels of support prior to the years-long budget crisis.
  • After years of damaging sweeps, for the second-year lawmakers left remaining resources intact in the CIF and the Kansas Endowment for Youth.
  • The Legislature expanded the 4-year-old at-risk program to allow school districts to serve 3-year-old children if space is available, and the school finance plan increases state aid for that program by $2 million.
  • In 2018, legislative early childhood champions joined together to form a bi-partisan, bi-cameral early learning caucus. The caucus’ first meeting drew on the expertise of national experts, Danielle Ewen and Judy Reidt-Parker, in Kansas at the time for the KAC-hosted Symposium for Early Success.

KAC looks forward to continuing this progress over the rest of this year and beyond. Our team is spending the summer and fall visiting with stakeholders about how Kansas can build a more comprehensive early learning system so that every Kansas child can access high-quality early learning opportunities. We are also devoting time and attention to considering policy choices that will advance race equity in our state, because we can’t achieve our goals if some kids are left behind.

Ad Astra,
Annie McKay
Kansas Action for Children President and CEO

(June 23, 2018)