TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Hundreds of child advocates from 34 Kansas counties convened at the Capitol on Wednesday for Early Learning Day 2012.
Early Learning Day brings together parents, business leaders, educators and child experts for a day of networking and advocacy. The annual event is coordinated by the Kansas Coalition for School Readiness, an organization dedicated to strengthening the state's commitment to early childhood programs.
The day began at the Holiday Inn Holidome with a presentation by Dr. Sean Cupp, physician for the University of Kansas men's basketball team and a graduate of Head Start. The noon keynote speaker is Charles Branson, Douglas County district attorney.
Throughout Early Learning Day, attendees meet with their hometown legislators at the Statehouse to discuss the importance of quality early education programs.
This year, the coalition is focused on two policy priorities: protecting the Children's Initiatives Fund and maintaining the Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax provisions that support working families.
The Children's Initiative Fund, established by the Kansas Legislature in 1999 as part of the state's master tobacco settlement, supports programs such as Early Head Start, tiny-k, Smart Start and Parents as Teachers. In November, the Kansas Children's Cabinet delivered CIF funding recommendations to the governor based on an anticipated funding level of $56 million, but the governor's budget proposal assumes less than $40 million in funding, a departure from the way monies from Kansas' tobacco settlement have traditionally been used.
"The Children's Initiatives Fund provides important funding to support families and children, which translates into children who are ready to learn and families who are fully engaged in the education process of their children," said Lori Alvarado, executive director of the Kansas Head Start Association. "Research shows that every $1 invested in early learning efforts yields at least $7 in savings in special education, social services and health care."
In conjunction with Early Learning Day, the coalition has released a policy brief on the CIF and the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund. It is available here.
Advocates were also scheduled to speak with legislators about the importance of maintaining the Kansas Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit and other tax provisions that provide family economic security. The coalition says these supports are critical because children under age 5 are more likely than children ages 5-17 to live in poverty.
Kansas counties represented: Allen, Brown, Butler, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Dickinson, Douglas, Ellis, Finney, Harvey, Haskell, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Montgomery, Osage, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Reno, Rice, Riley, Rooks, Saline, Sedgwick, Shawnee, Washington, Wilson, and Wyandotte.
For more information, visit www.kansasschoolreadiness.org.