Gov. Kelly, others vow to improve early childhood education opportunities

Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday urged early childhood advocates and others to aim higher as the Kansas Children’s Cabinet works under new leadership.

Kelly said policymakers have learned a lot about the importance of early childhood education over the past 20 years, since the Children’s Cabinet was first formed to oversee the use of expenditures from the Master Tobacco Settlement to improve the well-being of Kansas youth.

“Everyone in this room understands that education begins the moment you are born,” Kelly said.

Kelly said childhood programs were among many areas of state government that suffered after the 2012 tax cuts championed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback. In 2017, a bipartisan group of legislators, including Kelly who was a state senator, reversed many of those cuts and the state’s revenue situation has improved.

Now Kelly said the state can resume improving programs designed to provide seamless education opportunities throughout life.

“I’m passionate about this. We will get this done. We will get it done right,” she said.

Earlier this year, Kelly appointed new Children’s Cabinet leaders, naming former state Rep. Melissa Rooker as executive director and Kim Moore, former president of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, as chair.

On Thursday, Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson, Kansas Board of Regents President Blake Flanders and members of Kelly’s cabinet voiced support for engaging businesses, communities, education and government.

Joe Reardon, co-chair of the Early Childhood subcommittee of the Governor’s Education Council, said employers need well-trained workers. Despite a low unemployment rate, he said many Kansans are not in the workforce because of a lack of access to affordable child care, transportation or work skills training. “It is essential for us to grow our own,” he said.

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