By Jonathan Shorman
May 9, 2016

One of the most prominent advocates of preserving funding for children’s programs in the Statehouse will leave Kansas.

Kansas Action for Children said Monday its president and CEO, Shannon Cotsoradis, will depart for a Nebraska non-profit. Cotsoradis, who also serves as a Democratic appointee to the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, was the first to publicly disclose discussions earlier this year among Republicans over the potential selling off of the state’s tobacco funds.

Annie McKay, director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, will become KAC’s new leader. The center is critical of Kansas tax policy, and McKay frequently speaks around the state about Kansas’ financial condition.

“We are deeply grateful for Shannon’s leadership and service, and we’re sad to see her go,” said Susan Fetsch, president of the KAC Board of Directors. “But the board has complete confidence in Annie’s ability to advance the mission of KAC amid this transition.”

“Her experience navigating the legislative process, her relationships with both Republican and Democratic policymakers, and her in-depth knowledge of state health, budget, and education issues make her the best possible choice to lead KAC into its next chapter.”

In a statement, McKay drew attention to the state’s budget.

“Kansas Action for Children has been a leading voice for advocacy under the dome for nearly 40 years, but there are undoubtedly challenges ahead as the state continues to grapple with an ongoing budget crisis,” said McKay.

“Investments in Kansas’ youngest children are among the most efficient and effective dollars we spend in state government. I’m eager to continue KAC’s important work to ensure policymakers maintain these investments in Kansas children and families.”

Cotsoradis worked at KAC for 19 years and was its president and CEO since 2010. She was involved in legislation focused on child care licensing, implementation of a graduated drivers licensing system and expanding health coverage to low-income children. She is joining the Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative.

In March, Cotsoradis, who was named to the Kansas Children’s Cabinet by Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, charged Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration was contemplating selling future tobacco settlement payments in exchange for a one-time boost of funding . At the time, the governor’s office said there was no deal or pending legislation.

Ultimately, selling off a portion of the settlement payments was included as part of budget balancing measures proposed by Brownback, though lawmakers chose not to pursue that option.

Read more from the Topeka Capital Journal.