Topeka Good policy and good politics are intersecting at the crossroads of pre-kindergarten education, child advocates said Tuesday.
Kansas Action for Children released a poll that showed nearly eight of 10 Kansas voters support state funding for pre-kindergarten programs and believe it should be made available to all children.
"The poll lends strong support for making access to pre-kindergarten an important strategy for meeting Kansas' constitutional duty to provide suitable educational opportunities for all children," said KAC executive director Gary Brunk. "It also shows this is a winning issue for legislative candidates."
A state district judge has declared Kansas' $2.7 billion school finance system unconstitutional because it shortchanges all students, especially minorities and students with disabilities. The case is before the Kansas Supreme Court.
KAC has argued in a legal brief filed in the lawsuit that increasing funding for state-supported pre-kindergarten programs would help close an achievement gap between students from low-income and wealthy families.
The poll, which was conducted in July, of 503 frequent voters showed that 90 percent of respondents believe children's attendance of high-quality pre-kindergarten is important to prepare them for school.
Seventy-nine percent believe in making pre-kindergarten available to all children, and 78 percent support state funding for pre-kindergarten programs.
A recent national report chided Kansas for trailing other states in getting more children into early learning.
Kansas spent $12.7 million enrolling 5,453 four-year-olds in pre-kindergarten, the report said. Oklahoma is spending nearly $73 million for pre-kindergarten for 30,000 children.
In Lawrence, the school district provides pre-school to about 100 four-year-olds.
KAC also argues that investing state funds in early learning will reduce expenses in later years by lowering the need for remedial and special education.
(Poll results are available at www.kac.org)