Nov. 1, 2017

High-Quality Early Learning and Development Opportunities Can Improve K-12 Education Outcomes

TOPEKA, Kansas –  Since 1992, Kansas Action for Children has released a report on how children and families are doing statewide, as well as county-by-county. The 2017 Kansas KIDS COUNT Report points to the earliest years of a child’s life as being the best time to prepare them for K-12 success and beyond.

“Every Kansas child deserves to have access to the opportunities created by good health, education, and employment. The path to these opportunities starts in the earliest years of their life through high-quality early learning made possible by the state’s investments,” said Annie McKay, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children.

Among other things, Kansas early childhood programs can catch developmental delays, provide high-quality child care, diagnose autism early, provide speech and language services, strengthen families, and make hearing aids available to infants. These services can change a young child’s entire life trajectory.

Stressful experiences that result from poverty, exposure to violent behavior, limited healthcare, food insecurity, and lack of access to quality early learning experiences can disrupt the healthy development of a child’s brain and puts them at risk of not entering kindergarten ready to learn.

The education indicators highlighted in the report reveal the need for greater, more targeted investments in early learning programs like Head Start and Early Head Start, which provide comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.

  • In Kansas, on average, there are only 42.2 Head Start slots per 100 children 3-4 years of age living in families earning less than the U.S. poverty threshold.
  • In Kansas, on average, there are only 8.34 Early Head Start slots per 100 children 0-3 years of age living in families earning less than the U.S. poverty threshold.
  • In Kansas, only half (52.89%) of elementary schools offer pre-kindergarten or four-year-old at risk programs.

“Infants and young children with access to quality learning and development opportunities are more likely to enter school ready to learn; to read at grade level; to avoid entering the child welfare system; and to avoid chronic health conditions later in life,” said John Wilson, vice president of advocacy for Kansas Action for Children. “We look forward to helping lawmakers understand the data and respond with policies that strengthen and expand the state’s existing early childhood infrastructure.”

Kansas Action for Children recommends the following solutions for the 2018 Legislative Session:

  • Adopt the Kansas Children’s Cabinet recommendation to dedicate the full amount of tobacco settlement revenue to restore and enhance investments in early childhood programs.
  • Invest in home visiting, family preservation, infant and maternal health, early learning and other programs and services that can help prevent adverse childhood experiences and increase Kansas children’s school readiness.
  • Make anti-poverty programs like child care assistance, food assistance, and cash assistance more accessible to the children and families who need them.

Release Information

Kansas KIDS COUNT provides an annual snapshot of how children and families are doing statewide, as well as how they compare on a county-by-county basis. The indicators tracked in this fact sheet reflect the current condition of Kansas children and can be used by state and local leaders to craft policies and interventions that can help every child achieve their full potential.

For more Kansas data, visit To see how Kansas kids compare on a national level, visit

About Kansas Action for Children

For almost 40 years, Kansas Action for Children has worked to shape health, education, and economic policy that puts children first.