14 September 2023 | Education Early Learning Health Tax and Budget Economic Security

August 2023 Newsletter

(Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor)

Kansas Action for Children
August 30, 2023

Want to receive this weekly recap as soon as it's released? Sign up for our emails here.

Finding Common Ground Through Dolly Parton and Reading 

There are few things in this world that have the power to bring everybody together, regardless of their identity or affiliation. In my experience, inspiring an interest in reading is one of those things, and another is Dolly Parton.  

Recently, I had the privilege of attending an event that brought these two together for a few special hours in Kansas. Dolly was in town to celebrate the Kansas expansion of her Imagination Library, a book-gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, no matter their family’s income. And now, every kid in every zip code in Kansas has access. 

My wife and I had a quick opportunity to tell Dolly how much our two boys loved reading the books they received in the mail through her program. I can confirm that her charm and warmth is matched only by her musical talent (which the crowd also got to enjoy). 

Among the attendees were Governor Kelly, state senators and representatives, members of Kansas’ federal delegation, state cabinet secretaries, and dozens of early childhood advocates. It was refreshing to see such bipartisan enthusiasm for the program. As Rep. Waymaster was emceeing the event, I was reminded that we wouldn’t have been able to celebrate statewide expansion without bipartisan support from the Legislature to fund it. While not every issue will get a boost from one of the most iconic musicians in American history, there are plenty of issues that should remain bipartisan.  

I encourage the leaders who took time to celebrate the Imagination Library that day to bring the same level of enthusiasm to other early childhood issues for which they have the power to solve, such as making high-quality child care more affordable for families and the profession more sustainable for providers. Because when we don’t invest in programs and services that help families meet their basic needs, we undercut our investments in programs like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. 

All Kansas children age 0-5 can enroll for free books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library; click here to sign up.

View the event on Youtube here

2023 Kansas KIDS COUNT Data Book Coming Soon

In the next month, we will release our state data book, detailing how kids are faring in health, education, and economic well-being outcomes. Our report will be the Kansas extension of the national KIDS COUNT Data Book, which was released earlier this summer.

Here’s an excerpt of what we’re seeing in the data:

We are consistently in the middle of the pack compared to other states, especially among our surrounding states.  

Kansas families have had to navigate a system that works against them, yet they still somehow manage to outperform families in half of other states.  

Pandemic-era relief measures – the effects of which are present throughout the Data Book – have given us a glimpse into what is possible for families. Food assistance benefits were increased, families didn’t need to stress about how to pay for their children’s school meals, health coverage was more accessible, and parents had a few more dollars in their pockets from the temporarily expanded federal child tax credit. However, with the public health emergency ending, so do those extra supports.   

Imagine what Kansas could do if we invested in programs that make it easier for parents, caregivers, and kids to have the best outcomes possible. We could ensure every child has enough to eat for every meal, has access to affordable health care, can attend early learning programs and flourish in K-12 education, and has a stable home environment.   

We have the potential to be the best state for families and kids, but we can only accomplish that by acting on issues revealed in the data.

This project has been months in the making, and we’re excited to share it with you. Once published, we hope the 2023 Kansas KIDS COUNT Data Book will serve as a continual resource to you in your advocacy efforts. Be on the lookout for its official release!

Far Too Many Kids Continue to Lose KanCare Coverage for Paperwork Reasons

The state released the third set of data for the KanCare unwinding process. We continue to be alarmed that far too many children are losing coverage because their renewal forms aren’t successfully returned or received, or other paperwork glitches are occurring. Kids still make up about 62% of those who fall into the 90-day renewal window, meaning they lose their coverage but can re-enroll. Read the rest of our update... 

Sadly, this issue isn’t unique to Kansas. As CNN details, multiple states are seeing kids disenrolled from their health coverage due to parents having issues with complicated, time-consuming paperwork or not realizing their children have higher family income eligibility limits than they do because several states (Kansas included) have yet to expand Medicaid.  

We’re grateful the state has changed course in a few ways, like giving KanCare members a longer response time before coverage is discontinued. But more needs to be done so families know how to keep their coverage.

First Month of FY 2024 Shows Continued Strong Revenue Collections

The start of a new fiscal year brings not only nervous hope for the upcoming year’s revenue to meet the estimated budget, but also a guarded realization that unforeseen events in Kansas, across the nation, or even across the world could change the fiscal picture at any time.  

Although the first few months of the new fiscal year typically are strong revenue months, knowing that the state has a healthy rainy day fund and a surplus from FY 2023 provides some relief that only preparedness can provide. Continue reading the July 2023 update...

Combating Food Insecurity in Kansas

Will Kansas Be Next to Help Alleviate School Meal Debt Pressure for Students, Families, and Schools?

Kids can’t learn well on empty bellies; consistent access to school meals helps students focus and learn, improves test scores, increases the likelihood of graduation, and increases future earning potential.  

Kansas could join 19 other states that regulate unpaid school meal debt so that kids don’t experience stigma amongst their peers. Kansas could also be the next state to implement policy solutions to reduce the financial burden on families. 

Here are three options the Legislature could implement in the coming 2024 session. 

How Is the Kansas WIC Program Funded?

WIC is a federal program that provides supplemental nutrition-rich foods and nutrition education to low-income, nutritionally at-risk women, infants, and children up to 5 years old. 

WIC is not an entitlement program, where the funding automatically increases based on the number of individuals who are eligible and sign up for services. WIC can only serve as many people as it has funding available, which is set each year through the annual federal appropriations process. 

Since 2016, less than half of the Kansas families who qualify for WIC benefits haven’t received the services they need. Participation in Kansas has been on a steady decline for more than a decade, even though the number of eligible Kansans has increased. Continue reading...