May 9, 2016

Shannon Cotsoradis, the president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children (KAC), will resign on May 31 to take a position at Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative. While this means Kansas children will soon lose one of their strongest and most persistent advocates, they will continue to benefit from her legacy for years to come.

Cotsoradis has worked at KAC for almost two decades, serving as its CEO since 2010. In that time, she has worked to preserve funding for early childhood education, programs for economically disadvantaged families and many other initiatives that protect our state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Cotsoradis is particularly good at illuminating real-world implications of public policy.

For more than a year, the Brownback administration has been touting the Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone (HOPE) Act as an effective way to combat poverty and reduce government dependency. One of its key provisions is a reduction in the duration of time needy families can receive financial assistance: from 48 months to 36 months. Since the HOPE Act was passed in April 2015, the Legislature again lowered this threshold to 24 months.

Cotsoradis explained the impact these limitations will have on Kansas families: “Policymakers may be well intended in their desire to promote self-sufficiency among poor Kansas families, but data shows the most economically fragile Kansas children need access to the safety net.”

She’s right. According to Brownback, Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) has kept Kansans from seeking employment. However, less than 10 percent of the people who stop using the program do so to start work, and almost a quarter of Kansas children still live in poverty. Around 26,000 of them were eligible for TANF benefits in 2010, and even though that number dropped to 10,000 in 2016, the poverty rate has remained static.

Cotsoradis has been a tenacious proponent of greater transparency in the state government.

She reproached the chairwoman of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, Amanda Adkins, for sending Gov. Sam Brownback a list of recommendations without her colleagues’ approval. She criticized the lack of “stakeholder engagement” when state officials were considering how to bring the HOPE Act into compliance with federal regulations. And she exposed the scheme to exchange millions in Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement payments for a one-time sum.

For the past few months, Cotsoradis has been a staunch defender of the Children’s Initiatives Fund (CIF) against the securitization of the tobacco payments. The CIF is supported exclusively by tobacco settlement dollars, so securitization would have dismantled its protections and put its programs at risk.

Now that the Legislature has decided against securitization, Cotsoradis can leave Kansas knowing the CIF will continue to receive around $50 million per year. Some numbers speak for themselves.

Read more from the Topeka Capital Journal.