Gov. Kelly calls for early childhood improvements as community listening tours continue

Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday kicked off a community meeting in Hays with a call to strengthen programs serving preschool-aged children and their families as a key factor in workforce development and economic growth. 

The Hays event was one of a series of engagement meetings being held across the state, beginning in May and continuing into July. This week, additional events are in Liberal today and Dodge City tomorrow. Here is a link to information on additional meetings in June. School leaders, as well as early childhood providers, parents and community leaders are encouraged to attend the one-hour events, which discuss each community’s strengths, a vision for a stronger system of early childhood and family support, and gaps between the two. 

In her remarks, Kelly stressed both the need for better services for young children and their families, and the importance of collaboration to provide those improved services. 

“Think about how much more we know today in 2019 than we did in 1999 when the Kansas Children’s Cabinet was established,” she said. “Decades of scientific research has established that a child makes more than one million neural connections each second from birth to age three. Those neurons form a brain architecture that sets a child’s entire life trajectory, affected by relationships, experience and environment. Efforts to build a future workforce pipeline hinge on this critical period of life.” 

The governor noted she has formed an education council with representatives of early childhood programs, K-12 schools, technical and community colleges and universities and employers to develop a comprehensive vision for the future, which would require a “seamless transition” across those programs from preschool to employment. “Achieving shared prosperity will likely require public-private partnerships, increased public awareness, cross sector collaboration, local buy-in, shared accountability and much more,” she said. 

“By the time I leave office,” she said, “I envision a state in which the term early childhood stakeholders is considered far too encompassing to be used as a stand-alone phrase, because we understand that we are all early childhood stakeholders.” 

The effort is part of collaboration between four state agencies: the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, the Kansas State Department of Education, Department of Children and Families and Department of Health and Environment. It is supported by a one-year planning grant under the federal Every Child Succeeds Act. 

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