The Children’s Initiative Fund is in danger — and has been throughout several legislative sessions. The fund, which contributes about $60 million annually toward Kansas children’s education, is made up of tobacco settlement money, and has been helping fund early childhood education for almost 20 years.
Gov. Sam Brownback has threatened to sell the fund for a lump sum, eliminating it forever and replacing it with a lump sum of cash that would shore up the state’s failing budget for a time — something that has been compared to a payday loan.
He has done this three times, and been rejected by the legislature three times.
Comprehensive tax reform has been suggested as a way to spare the Children’s Initiative Fund. This would undo several things Brownback put in place in 2012, including cuts to taxes for LLCs. Comprehensive tax reform was recently passed by both the Kansas house and senate, only to be vetoed by Brownback.
The children’s initiative fund is supposed to be in place for Kansas children forever — or at least as long as people continue smoking.
However, if it’s sold, it goes away forever. This was the message stressed by Unified School District 475 officials at a meeting Wednesday.
President and CEO of Kansas Action for Children Annie McKay attended the meeting, which was held at the Larry Dixon Center.
She addressed those present, saying she was in favor of comprehensive tax reform.
Cuts have already impacted Kansas children, according to McKay, causing the state’s schools to fall in rank compared to other schools.
“We’re seeing the states around us just leapfrog over us ... the choices that we’re making in the legislature have consequences — consequences like our fourth grade reading proficiency dropped from 13 to 30. We’re not putting kids on the doorstep of kindergarten ready to learn when we cut these programs,” she said.
While there, McKay also said an endowed fund which ought to have $200 million in tobacco money now contains nothing.
The school district’s early childhood program makes use of the children’s initiative fund. Pre-K students in Geary County benefit from early childhood funds that could be cut in the upcoming legislative session.
About 200,000 very young children benefit from the children’s initiative fund statewide.
“It definitely comes at you from a math perspective,” McKay said. “Businesses get this. This is the start of our workforce right now.”
Locals are invited to attend the Legislative Coffee being held by the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce at the C.L. Hoover Opera House Saturday at 9 a.m. During the coffee, the public may ask questions of legislators — including Rep. Dave Baker who attended the Wednesday meeting.
The legislative session starts back up Monday.
“We need to understand that to grow the Kansas economy ... we need to invest in our children,” USD 475 McKinney-Vento coordinator Marty Rombold said.