Since the Children’s Initiatives Fund (CIF) was established with tobacco settlement dollars in 1999, it has become the cornerstone of funding for our early care and education system in Kansas. In fact, pretty much every program that serves young children has received or is currently receiving funding from the CIF. That is why Governor Sam Brownback’s budget proposal to sweep $50.6 million from the CIF into the State General Fund (SGF) is so troubling.
While there is a long list of things that give me pause about this proposal, there are three things that keep me awake at night.
First, Kansas is facing significant and repeated shortfalls in revenue. For FY 2017, the year in which this sweep from the CIF to the SGF would first occur, Kansas is estimating a $200 million-dollar shortfall. It is difficult to imagine eliminating the CIF — a special revenue fund created to ensure tobacco settlement dollars benefit children — won’t make those programs more vulnerable to significant funding cuts. While the governor’s intentions may be to maintain level funding for early childhood programs in FY 2017 and beyond, once those dollars are swept into the SGF the future of our early childhood system will rest in the hands of the Kansas Legislature.
Second, the Children’s Initiatives Fund was created to ensure the dollars invested in children’s programs are highly coordinated and accountable and rigorously evaluated. The governor’s budget proposal to eliminate the CIF will jeopardize an infrastructure that is producing strong results for young Kansas children. The proposal disregards the findings of the recently-released efficiency audit which describes the Kansas Children’s Cabinet as an innovation driver. The report highlighted millions of dollars in savings generated by CIF programs by future cost avoidance, producing an 11 percent return on investment. The report also stated: “CIF-funded programs are held to a higher standard of evaluation that many State programs.”
Lastly, sweeping the dollars that Kansas legislators promised to young children, will make these critical public investments subject to political whims as the legislative environment evolves. When the Children’s Initiatives Fund was established a long-term, bi-partisan vision for investing in our state’s children came with it. The governor’s proposal abandons that bi-partisan vision and places all of what is left in the children’s piggy bank in harm’s way at at time when Kansas kids are likely to pay the price, today and for years to come.
What is at stake for little kids is clear. Why would we want to risk that for a proposal that doesn’t have any clear benefits?
Editor’s note: Since time of KAC’s blog post submission, Kansas lawmakers have scrapped some of the cuts to the state’s programs for children.