Early childhood education
Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Monday said getting more funding for pre-kindergarten learning is one of her top priorities for the next legislative session.
"Too many Kansas children are waiting for their chance," Sebelius told approximately 200 people at the Governor's Summit on Early Childhood.
She said she would construct a multiyear strategy to increase programs for 3- and 4-year-olds to better prepare them for kindergarten.
Later, Sebelius said the plan hadn't been formed yet but would be presented to the Legislature, which starts its 2008 session in January. She said it would include using state dollars to leverage commitments from businesses and philanthropic leaders.
"The investment in human potential of Kansas children is the most important investment we will ever make in this state," she said.
Kansas Education Commissioner Alexa Posny agreed on the need for funding.
"We don't have targeted programs and targeted funds for the ages between 3 and 4. We're missing a year in there, and that is something we have to pick up," Posny said.
Posny said 5-year-olds who are not prepared for kindergarten have difficulty catching up to their grade level.
"If we don't start with them younger, we are going to hit, basically, a brick wall," she said.
A recent survey involving 5,000 children found that half the state's 5-year-olds aren't ready for kindergarten, Sebelius said.
During the last session, Sebelius and lawmakers approved $3 million for a pilot pre-kindergarten program in under-served and rural areas, and a $1.6 million increase to Head Start.
Sebelius also has called for guaranteed health care for children from birth to age 5, but lawmakers have rejected that. She said she would continue to press for that proposal, saying, "You can't have kids learn unless they are healthy."