Lawmakers eye funding changes to Early Childhood Education programs

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Lawmakers continue looking for revenue in every nook and cranny of state government and now several funds targeted at early childhood education could be in jeopardy.

Head Start and Parents as Teachers are just a few examples of programs currently made possible by the Kansas Endowment for Youth and the Children’s Initiatives Fund.

“So that’s where all of the building blocks start. You know brain development, as well as learning how to self-regulate, how to interact with adults, peers all of that is where it begins,” said Erick Vaughn, Executive Director of the Kansas Head Start Association.

However a few state officials are pushing to abolish those separate funds and move that money into the State General Fund.

“We would have to go to the Legislature each year and ask for a specific appropriation for that purpose, rather than it already being established and having the Children’s Cabinet then make funding recommendations which then are approved by the Legislature,” said Vaughn.

Given the state’s recent financial struggles advocates like Vaughn worry, once that money goes into the state general fund, they won’t get it back.

But some lawmakers believe making appropriations for those programs through the State General Fund allows for more oversight.

“I think the most scrutiny brings the most accountability, brings the most reliability to the people who vote to put us here,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, a Republican from Andover.

Vaughn says the Children’s Cabinet already holds those funds to the highest levels of accountability, which state audits have also shown.

“I think it’s naïve to say that if this money was put in the State General Fund as part of the Legislative process that we would be held to just as high or higher accountability because that just wouldn’t be there,” said Vaughn

He fears these children’s programs will become yet another casualty of state budget cuts.
The proposal in front of lawmakers would also redirect sales and use taxes from the State Highway Fund, and revenues from the expanded lottery act to the State General Fund.

If approved those funds would not be re-directed until July 1st of 2017.

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