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‘Families are struggling’: Kansas child care providers ask for funding increase

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‘Families are struggling’: Kansas child care providers ask for funding increase

Feb 28, 2024 | 2:31 pm ET
By Rachel Mipro
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‘Families are struggling’: Kansas child care providers ask for funding increase
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Child care system slots may increase under new funding provisions. (Daria Nipot/Getty Images)

TOPEKA — More than 1,000 child care providers and stakeholders from all 105 Kansas counties urged lawmakers to channel more money into the state’s overwhelmed child care programs. 

Child care data in the state suggests only 46% of children in Kansas are receiving child care services, and that an additional 85,000 child care slots are needed to meet demand. 

To alleviate some of the financial strain faced by providers, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly introduced a $56 million allocation as part of her proposed budget for fiscal year 2025. The funding includes nearly $30 million for the construction of child care facilities and $5 million for a northwest Kansas pilot program seeking to test practices for public-private child care partnerships in rural areas. 

Another $15 million will go toward workforce grants to support child care providers struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fiscal year 2025, the money would provide an estimated 3,500 child care organizations with $4,000 grants.

Child care providers and stakeholders signed onto a letter supporting the allocation, calling the move a critical economic development and one that would bolster struggling Kansas families. 

“Too many Kansas families are struggling with the high costs of child care,” the letter reads.  “Investing in early childhood programs included in the budget will make child care more affordable and more available in communities from Kansas City to Garden City. …We need to invest in early childhood education to make sure all Kansas kids get started on the right track.” 

Lawmakers in the Republican-majority Legislature will go through budget items before sending the budget back to Kelly. If enacted, this allocation would be the largest single-year investment in early childhood care and education in Kansas history, according to the governor’s office. 

“Early childhood providers are essential to preparing our children for lifelong success and know how critical it is to invest in our state’s early childhood system,” Kelly said in a Wednesday statement. “Legislators should listen to these experts and approve the crucial budget proposals needed to expand access to child care, support our working families and businesses, and grow our economy.”