Lost funds

5/4/2014

Lawmakers' senseless maneuver undermines help for children.

Lawmakers' senseless maneuver undermines help for children.

Through various harmful legislative pursuits, Kansas legislators have made no secret of their war on the poor, women, teachers and others.

Count children among their targets.

Republicans on the far right proved as much again last week in pushing a state budget plan that stripped funds for programs in place to help youngsters.

Most early childhood initiatives in the state are funded by tobacco settlement dollars received annually. Of this year's $62 million payout, Gov. Sam Brownback's budget recommended $55 million for children's programs, with $7 million slated for the Kansas Endowment for Youth (KEY) fund.

The endowment fund has helped support many good early childhood programs, such as Head Start, Parents as Teachers and newborn health screening.

But a last-minute budget plan championed by ultraconservatives who dominate the Legislature swept $5 million from the KEY fund, and added it to the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

It was the second straight year such funding has been taken for other purposes. In 2013, the ultraconservative GOP faction angled for $9.5 million from the KEY fund.

Such money grabs have become more common, all part of a desperate ploy to offset an inevitable budget shortfall created by the governor's income-tax breaks for wealthy Kansans. Making matters worse, the raid on the KEY fund was yet another deal from this year's Legislature crafted behind closed doors without public debate.

While the move was cloaked in secrecy, it was easy to see how lawmakers behind it dismissed the importance of early childhood education, and ignored how a smart economic development strategy ensures that every child receives a healthy start in life.

Children are our future. Any plan to generate economic growth has to acknowledge the potential that exists in all young Kansans.

Education and health care are vital, starting with prenatal care and throughout a child's developmental years.

Undermining the investment in children via the KEY fund will make it more difficult for programs to provide the same level of services. Fewer children may be served.

Unfortunately, many lawmakers still fail to comprehend how shortchanging attempts to give children a strong start will hinder economic growth and prosperity.

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