By Dave Ranney
April 13, 2015

The Kansas Children’s Cabinet is in the beginning stages of launching an initiative aimed at reinvigorating its efforts to build public-private support for early childhood development programs.

The initiative, which has yet to be named, is driven by concerns that as much as one-fourth of the tobacco master settlement monies won’t be available in 2018.

In Kansas, settlement monies are used to underwrite children’s programs throughout the state. “We’re on the cusp of being in a really difficult position in terms of settlement dollars,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, a Children’s Cabinet member and chief executive of Kansas Action for Children.

The money — between $15 million and $20 million a year — won’t be available because it’s tied to a “strategic contribution formula” that’s scheduled to end in 2018.

“We’ve known this from the beginning, that a significant portion of the payment would be going away,” Cotsoradis said during the Children’s Cabinet meeting Friday in Topeka. Children’s Cabinet members hope the initiative will help communities cope with the loss of funds.

“This is all very preliminary at this point,” said Janice Smith, executive director of the Children’s Cabinet. The initiative, she said, was first proposed during a December meeting with Gov. Sam Brownback.

The governor, Smith said, liked the idea of convening meetings with school officials, business leaders, philanthropists and Head Start program directors to see how partnerships that have proven to be successful in some communities might be replicated in others.

A Children’s Cabinet-led group, Smith said, eventually will pick three communities it thinks have the most potential for building successful coalitions. Lessons learned in these communities will be shared with others. Smith said the governor’s office will be involved in the group’s deliberations.

The initiative is expected to focus on services for children from birth to age 5. “The seeds are there,” said Children’s Cabinet Chairwoman Amanda Adkins.

“Now we just need to make sure they flower.” Erick Vaughan, director of the Kansas Head Start Association, said he looked forward to taking part in the group’s deliberations. “I’m just excited about the opportunity to get in front of the governor and work with something that’s birth-to-5,” he said.

“There are lots of questions yet to be answered. But I’m excited about the possibilities.” Kansas programs currently funded with tobacco revenues include Tiny K, Children’s Mental Health Initiative, Head Start, Early Head Start, Parents as Teachers and Kansas Reads to Succeed.

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