Having the governor voice support for funding all-day kindergarten across the state is a good start for the upcoming session of the Kansas Legislature, but the real test will come at the end of the session when the kindergarten funding either is or isn’t included in the final budget legislation signed by the governor.
Earlier this week, Gov. Sam Brownback proposed having the state provide $80 million over the next five years to fully fund all-day kindergarten. Brownback said the proposal came out of meetings he recently held with selected legislators and school officials. That’s not surprising; educators are well aware that all-day kindergarten is a tried and true way to improve student achievement throughout their school years.
Presumably, Brownback will include the kindergarten funding in the budget he presents next month. What happens after that, however, may test the governor’s resolve to keep the kindergarten funds in next year’s budget.
It would be too bad if the kindergarten funds met a fate similar to increased higher education funding that was included in Brownback’s budget last January. Although Brownback voiced support for additional funds and even toured the state near the end of the session to tout his position, he nonetheless ended up signing a budget that didn’t include the higher education boost.
Proposing funding for all-day kindergarten is a good first step, but Brownback then has to exercise the necessary leadership to gain legislative approval for the proposal. Is the all-day kindergarten proposal important enough to withstand what is shaping up as another tight budget year? Property tax revenue to fund K-12 schools is falling below expectations, and a supplemental allocation probably will be necessary just to get through the current year.
A ruling is expected soon from the Kansas Supreme Court in a lawsuit that claims the state isn’t meeting its constitutional obligation on school funding. If the court orders additional state funding for K-12 schools, will the governor stand firm on his all-day kindergarten proposal or allow it to fall by the wayside? Or perhaps employ some questionable funding tactic similar to the recent decision to divert funds from general assistance programs for needy Kansas families to support a program aimed at improving student reading skills?
Proposing funding for all-day kindergarten is one thing; making that funding a reality is another matter. It will be interesting to see whether, or in what form, this proposal survives the upcoming session.