Topeka The new Kansas Kids Count statistical look at the education, health and economic well-being of the state’s children shows the need for more early learning opportunities in Douglas County, an official said Wednesday.
The report — a joint project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Kansas Action for Children — shows that the number of eligible children in Douglas County in early learning programs lags other urban counties and the state as a whole.
Only half of the elementary schools in Douglas County offer all-day kindergarten, compared with 78 percent statewide, the report said.
The number of Early Head Start slots available per 100 children was 3.07 in Douglas County, compared with 4.72 among other urban counties, and 7.14 statewide. The number of Head Start slots available per 100 children was 24.2 in Douglas County, 42.9 in other urban counties, and 58.5 statewide.
“Douglas County investments in early childhood present our most effective and efficient economic development investment over the long haul,” said Rich Minder, collaborative projects coordinator for Success by 6 Coalition of Douglas County.
He said a financial aid system to get more children into early learning programs would help economic development on two fronts — working parents would be more productive because they know they have high-quality child care, and children enrolled in the programs would receive a better educational start.
Kansas Action for Children said the new report showed that the economic stability of Kansas families was slipping.
Nearly four out of 10 Kansas children are growing up in low-income or poverty-stricken households, the report said.
“It’s no secret that Kansas families are feeling the pinch of the economy,” said Gary Brunk, president of KAC. “Despite the fact that children are the most vulnerable to economic insecurity, they are also a critical part of the solution. The data tells us that investing in Kansas children is essential to long-term job growth and our economic stability.”
Between 2005 and 2008, the number of uninsured children in Kansas grew from 51,000 to 72,000, a 41 percent increase.
And a majority of those uninsured children are income-eligible for Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the report said. Increasing outreach efforts, and simplifying the enrollment and renewal process would improve access to health care, KAC said.