At this child care provider in Pittsburg, the facility struggles to turn a profit and pay workers living wages. (Blaise Mesa/Kansas News Service)
There aren’t enough child care openings for Kansas families, and the ones that do exist can cost more than a home mortgage.
By Daniel Caudill, Kansas News Service
Kansas families could have more options for child care and early childhood education under a proposal from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly that would pump millions of dollars into the services.
Kelly is proposing $56 million go toward addressing a child care shortage, with the largest piece – around $30 million – reserved for constructing new day cares. That money would flow through a grant program. Private money would be eligible for state matching funds.
It’s the latest attempt to address a systemic problem in Kansas. There aren’t enough child care openings for Kansas families, and the ones that do exist can cost more than a home mortgage. The shortage affects family careers and can mean kids don’t attend early childhood programs that offer big educational benefits.
“We can’t wait until kindergarten to start setting up our kids for a strong future,” Kelly said on Wednesday during her State of the State address. “Children’s experiences from birth to 5 determine the trajectory of their entire lives.”
About $15 million would help support existing child care providers, especially home based ones, to offset their costs. The governor’s plan is to provide grants of about $4,000 to around 3,500 providers.
During a presentation to lawmakers about the governor’s proposed budget, Kansas Budget Director Adam Proffitt pitched the plan as a solution not only to issues in child care but also the workforce.
“If parents can’t find child care for their kids, it’s going to be difficult to go to work,” Proffitt said.
Republicans who control the budget process did not initially indicate whether they would support or oppose Kelly's proposals on child care.
In Kelly’s tax plan unveiled last week, she proposed doubling the tax credit that parents can claim to help pay for child care while they work or attend school. The governor’s office estimates that would save Kansas families $18 million over three years.
Kelly’s proposal reserves $5 million for a pilot program in northwest Kansas, which she says will provide a model for how public-private partnerships can improve child care in rural Kansas.
Between May 2022 and August 2023, the governor said Kansas has added more than 6,800 child care slots across the state.
A recent report from advocacy group Child Care Aware Kansas indicates the state may potentially need as many as 84,000 more child care slots to meet demands.
A final piece of the governor’s plan would consolidate all of the state’s early childhood services into a new Office of Early Childhood.
“Right now, if a daycare center wants to set up shop, it must work with one state agency to get licensed, another to receive workforce support and a third to get funding,” she said at the State of the State. “There are too many barriers, too many portals, too much hassle.”
Daniel Caudill reports on the Kansas Statehouse and government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can email him at email@example.com.
This article was used by permission from the Kansas News Service. The Kansas News Service is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.ksnewservice.org.