By April Holman
Executive Director of the Kansas Coalition for School Readiness
In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Sam Brownback pledged to invest $12 million in a new reading initiative designed to ensure that every Kansas child reads at grade-level by the third grade. What he didn’t mention is that funding for this new initiative, called Kansas Reads to Succeed, will come from the Children’s Initiatives Fund (CIF) and will result in reduced funding for key early childhood education programs.
When the budget details were released the morning after the governor’s speech, it became clear that Kansas Reads to Succeed will be funded through the CIF while at the same time the Early Childhood Block Grant program will be reduced by nearly $5 million per year in FY 2014 and FY 2015. Not only does this reduce the resources available for a key early childhood program, it also conflicts with the Kansas Children’s Cabinet decision over a year ago to focus CIF spending exclusively on early childhood programs. The ECBG serves children ages birth through 5 while the new reading initiative will be geared towards school-aged children from Kindergarten to 3rd grade.
We all want to help children succeed in school and beyond, and reading is big part of that. So why does it matter if the governor’s new reading program results in a reduction in the ECBG? Brain research tells us that 90 percent of a child’s brain architecture is established before the age of 5 and everything they learn – both as students and as adults – is built upon the strength of that architecture. It doesn’t make sense to shift funding from younger children, whose brains are in a crucial stage of development, to older children where the intervention is less effective.
Kansas Action for Children and the Kansas Coalition for School Readiness will work to restore full funding for the ECBG this legislative session. However, we will need help to be successful. If you haven’t already done so, please join the Save the CIF campaign at: www.kansasschoolreadiness.com.