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Kentucky

Kentucky, like all states, has a unique early childhood policy landscape that is shaped by economics, demographics, political history, coalitions, and other factors that create a unique environment for advocacy.

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s environment and the numerous efforts—by the organizations listed on this page, parents, policymakers, practitioners, and many others—who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

2024 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Slight Decline

Approximately 47% (222,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% FPL (2022). This number represents a decrease from 47% (229,000) in 2017.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% FPL than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

On April 9, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed the state’s biennial budget for fiscal years 2025 and 2026, including 23 line-item vetoes. The legislature subsequently overrode all but one of the line-item vetoes. The budget includes general fund appropriations of $16.1 billion in fiscal 2025, an increase of 11.2 percent over revised fiscal 2024, and $16.9 billion in fiscal 2026, a 4.7 percent increase. The official enacted forecast for the biennium estimates general fund revenues of $15.6 billion in fiscal 2025, a 0.2 percent growth rate over fiscal 2024, and $16.02 billion in fiscal 2026, a 2.8 percent growth rate over the prior year. The estimated balance of the Budget Reserve Trust Fund, or rainy day fund, is $3.5 billion at the end of fiscal 2026, which is more than 21 percent of general fund revenues.3

Key Revenue Sources:4

        • Personal Income Tax (5.0%)
        • State Sales Tax (6.0%)

State Budget Rules:4

Kentucky uses a biennial budget. The legislature must pass a balanced budget, but it can carry a deficit over into the following year. A Kentucky budget rule also limits the amount of revenue the state can raise, and because it’s a binding rule, a legislative supermajority is required to override it. A supermajority is also required for any bill that raises taxes. There are limits on total debt service incurred by the state, but not on authorized debt.

Permanent State Funding Stream Dedicated to Early Childhood: Yes

In Kentucky, 25 percent of the annual settlement Tobacco Master Settlement funds are dedicated to early child care and education programs.The funds are earmarked for use by the Governors Office of Early Childhood.

Political Alignment: Divided

During the 2024 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Republican controlled. The state’s Governor was a Democrat.5

Types of Ballot Measures Available:6  Two

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Legislature-Initiated State Statutes – Appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.

Key State Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Prichard Committee Kentucky

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:8

2024 Policy Progress:

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:7

The 2024 state budget provided $26,250,000 in state dollars to provide child care for child care employees by making all child care providers CCAP eligible at $0 co-pay regardless of income. From October 2022 – March 2024, 9,852 families and 17,273 children benefited from income exclusion for child care providers. The program continues to grow.

The 2024 State Budget provided an additional $59 million to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). While the investment amount is historical for Kentucky, the commonwealth fell short of the roughly $300 million needed to sustain the child care sector post-ARPA.

$3 million is provided in the 2024 State Budget to allow for a 6-month “off ramp” for families exiting CCAP eligibility.

$2 million is provided in the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2025-2026 to develop an Early Childhood Education Delivery Grant Program. The fund permits state leaders to further evaluate the early childhood education delivery mix in Kentucky in preparation for future policy development.

“Momnibus” bill HB10 contains several provisions to strengthen maternal and child health. The legislation adds pregnancy to the list of qualifying life events for the purpose of health insurance coverage; provides mental health consultation and access to care through the Lifeline for Moms Psychiatry Access Program; and expands the HANDS program to include lactation counseling and assistance, education on safe sleep, research on the role of doulas in the birth experience, and to include telehealth services.

SB74 requires the state to study current doula certification programs in Kentucky and across the nation, reviewing the training and quality requirements of each program, by December 2024. The report must also include recommendations on doula services for “populations most at risk for poor perinatal outcomes” and is one of many maternal health initiatives the bill includes.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s ally in Kentucky, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1983 to harness citizen voices to advocate for vastly improved schools across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Today, they focus on informing the public and policymakers, studying priority issues, and engaging business leaders, families, students, and other citizens to demand educational excellence and equity from the earliest years through postsecondary education.

Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas: 

Early Care and Education

Preschool and Pre-K

K-3rd Grade

Child Care

Child Care Workforce 

Child and
Maternal Health

Family
Supports

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Early Childhood Finance and Cost Modeling

Early Childhood Governance

RECENT ADVOCACY SNAPSHOT:
Kentucky Early Childhood Policy

Kentucky “Fragile Ecosystem” Report Helps Advocates Win Child Care Stabilization Funds

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prichard Committee and a team of statewide partners released data capturing the pandemic’s impact on Kentucky’s child care sector. The latest report on the survey results, “Fragile Ecosystem IV: “Will Kentucky Child Care Survive When The Dollars Run Out?,” played a big role in spurring the state to commit additional stabilization funding to the sector.

Read More »

NOTES:

1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, January, 2024. 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021.

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Proposed and Enacted Budgets, FY 2025.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, June 2024.

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2024 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, April 29, 2024.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved July, 2024.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, July, 2024.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-October, 2024. 

More State Policy Data:

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More State Demographic Data:

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Kentucky