By Haley Harrison
September 6, 2016

Supporters of an early childhood education program are issuing a call to action by voters after state changes made many families ineligible for it.

Meg Nohe said the Blue Valley School District’s Parents as Teachers program helps her keep up with her children’s appetite for information.

“When a new milestone happens, I feel I’m better equipped to handle it and roll with it, and that’s been helpful, especially your first time around,” she said.

“The brain is developing at its most rapid pace from the ages of birth to 3,” said Wendy Webb, of the Blue Valley Parents as Teachers program.

The program prepares children for school at a time when the child’s brain is developing at its most rapid pace. It offers research to help parents work with their children until it’s time for them go to school.

“They have hopes and dreams for their children. I believe this program supports those hopes and dreams and makes sure every child comes to school ready to learn,” Webb said.

She said new state funding changes are detrimental to the Parents as Teachers program.

“The impact was that our families have been caught off guard by the decision that was made and don’t feel their voice was able to be heard,” she said.

Facing a state budget shortfall, Kansas lawmakers earlier this year restricted access to the Parents as Teachers program by making it federally funded. Families must meet one of 19 criteria to participate, and low-income families are among those with the highest priority.

In Blue Valley, 40 percent of families no longer qualify, but the district has come up with a year of emergency funding to allow those families to stay.

De Soto schools cut one staff position and may impose fees for the program next year. In Lawrence, more than 100 children had to leave the program. In Olathe, more than 150 families were eliminated. Similar stories are being told across Kansas.

“The long-term impact to the state of Kansas is an increased cost to education,” said Webb.

Parent educators are urging Kansans to use their vote to make themselves heard this fall. All 125 seats in the Kansas House and 40 seats in the Kansas Senate are up for re-election.

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