January 13, 2016

TOPEKA – This morning, in his updated FY 2016-2017 budget recommendations, Gov. Sam Brownback called for the dismantling of Kansas’ system of funding for critical early childhood programs.

“This isn’t just a short-sighted budget recommendation,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, President and CEO of Kansas Action for Children. “This will dismantle one of Kansas’ most innovative, forward-thinking legacies. Kansas was the first to establish an endowment in an effort to ensure uninterrupted support for children’s funding over time as tobacco settlement dollars declined. If lawmakers approve these recommendations, Kansas’ premier early childhood system will become just another in a long line of casualties of a failed tax experiment.”

The governor’s budget calls for the total elimination of the Kansas Endowment for Youth (KEY) Fund. Decades ago, Kansas lawmakers made a commitment to the state’s future prosperity by establishing the KEY Fund and Children’s Initiatives Fund (CIF) with tobacco settlement money. Kansas was the only state in the nation to do so, recognizing both the cost avoidance and tremendous return on investment generated by early learning. It was part of a larger vision to provide early learning opportunities for generations of Kansans to come.

This recommendation will also require an important change in state statute. According to K.S.A. 38-2101, all revenues resulting from the Master Settlement Agreement must be credited to the KEY Fund. Statutes also say CIF dollars must be used to provide additional funding for programs to benefit the physical and mental health, welfare, safety and overall well-being of Kansas children. CIF money may not be used to replace or substitute moneys appropriated from the State General Fund (SGF) in the previous year. The change will give the governor unprecedented access to dollars promised to Kansas children, undermining the current role of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund. The Cabinet was originally created as a bipartisan, quasi-governmental agency to ensure accountable investment in children’s programs. Amending the statute leaves oversight of children’s programs to the discretion of the administration, removing a long-standing, successful system of checks and balances within the early learning system. Further, it will make children’s programs more susceptible to budget cuts and sweeps, eliminating current protections currently in place for Kansas’ youngest citizens.

Additionally, the governor’s recommendation disregards findings of the $2 million efficiency audit commissioned by the Legislature and released Tuesday. The report cites the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, which oversees the Children’s Initiative Fund (CIF), as an innovation driver of children’s programs. It highlighted millions of dollars in savings CIF-funded programs generated simply by future cost avoidance (such as children in special education programs), thereby providing an 11 percent return on investment. The report states: “CIF-funded programs are held to a higher standard of evaluation than many State programs.”

“The governor’s own efficiency audit confirmed the CIF is the gold standard of government accountability and outcomes. There is no ‘efficiency’ in dismantling one of the few state government programs that achieves such a high level of data-driven, proven success. The governor’s recommendation is not about increasing efficiency or accountability. It’s about giving him authority to make Kansas kids pay for his own fiscal mismanagement.”

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