19 January 2019 |

Time to seize the opportunity for Kansas kids

Annie McKay
Jan. 19, 2019

Kansas Action for Children was established nearly 40 years ago, when the Kansas Children’s Service League and three Junior Leagues recognized the need for an independent voice for Kansas kids. Since that time, we have advocated for health, education, and economic policies benefiting the lives of Kansas kids and families.

In working together and partnering with other organizations, agency leaders, communities, and leading experts, we believe Kansas can be the best state to raise and be a child. But we have work to do to realize this vision. 

Every Kansas kid – from birth to elementary school – should have access to high-quality early education, nurturing places and spaces, and routine health care. These investments in the early years create a rock-solid foundation for growth and development that lasts a lifetime. 

The decisions and investments we make today determine whether Kansas kids have that foundation and are able to build upon it in decades to come. KAC also recognizes that we can’t achieve our vision of making Kansas the best place to raise and be a child without tackling the legacies of unfairness created by systemic racism, resulting in disparities seen in a broad range of indicators – from children’s health insurance coverage to infant mortality and from high-quality early care to achievement gaps seen in elementary years. 

Informed by KIDS COUNT data, we have a clear view of the challenges and opportunities ahead. It’s time to seize the opportunity. The fact of the matter is the science is shouting at us: Early education shows clear benefits decades later. Data also tells us what’s at stake when we don’t get a jump start. When not connected to high quality early care and education, kids at-risk for adverse childhood experiences are: 

  • 25% more likely to drop out; 
  • 40% more likely to be a teen parent; 
  • 50% more likely to be placed in special education; 
  • 60% more likely to not attend college; and 
  • 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. 

To be clear, kindergarten is starting after the buzzer. Kids who have the benefit of high-quality early care and learning show greater mental and social growth than kids who don’t. Interventions for older children work, but they take longer and cost more.  

The last two years have seen promising commitments to Kansas kids during legislative sessions and more work remains. We look forward to partnering with lawmakers in the legislative biennium to leverage all the resources Kansas has available for kids and families to continue pursuit of the vision to make Kansas the best state to raise – and be – a kid. 

(Annie McKay is the president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children. This entry is adapted from a Jan. 17, 2019, informational briefing for the Kansas House Committee on Children and Seniors.)

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