MCPHERSON — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s budget plan was released this past week and education, including early childhood, remains a priority. The plan includes full funding of K-12 education with appropriate inflationary adjustments, as well as a five-year plan to phase in additional Special Education dollars. John Wilson with Kansas Action for Children is in support of those ideas.
"We've been advocating for increasing funding for special education," Wilson said. "Kansas is very fortunate right now to have a strong budget surplus, in addition to strong reserves. This is the time that we need to invest those dollars into education. We've done that in response to lawsuits in public education. Who we've left behind so far have been special education students. We are joining with other education partners to make sure that the Governor's recommendation of phased in funding to meet those obligations for special education happens."
Also a priority for KAC this session is fixing the wording of the state's CHIP legislation for kids who are low income, but do not qualify for Medicaid. The eligibility wording needs updated to account for inflation.
That has political problems for those who don't want to see Medicaid expanded, because an amendment to a CHIP bill that actually sought Medicaid expansion would end up in what is called a germaneness challenge, where the body would have to take a vote on whether or not such an amendment applied to the statute at hand and leadership can't necessarily control how a vote goes on that and process has been the way that Medicaid expansion has been held up for the last several sessions.
"Kansas is one of just 11 states that still hasn't expanded their health insurance programs to support families," Wilson said. "That's not to say there aren't paths forward, they are just a little more narrow path to get this CHIP issue resolved."
In addition, KAC is interested in what comes out of the newly created early childhood task force, as the governor attempts to create the framework for a new cabinet-level position in that arena.
"There are, I think, four state agencies with touchpoints with early childhood programs in Kansas," Wilson said. "You have the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Environment, the Department for Children and Families and the Kansas Children's Cabinet. I think, currently, those agencies do a nice job collaborating, given the various funding streams that they are working with and programs that they have oversight of, but I think we can have an even stronger early childhood system in Kansas if there was a single agency to bring that all together."
For more information on Kansas Action for Children and their priorities for this legislative session, go online to kac.org.