When Valerie Marshall learned that Barton County eliminated its share of funding for Sunflower’s Early Education Center (EEC), she was “saddened” and, subsequently, attended a special meeting on the subject.
Marshall is chairman of the Pawnee County Interagency Coordinating Council, which is one of four ICCs in Sunflower’s service area. (They are in the process of combining into one entity.)
One of the ICC’s main purposes is the coordination of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. It is this area’s oversight agency, which determines who will serve children with delays.
Barton County Commissioners eliminated the more than $54,000 that had been part of the EEC budget. The county has provided funding for infants and toddlers with disabilities since 1971 but eliminated it for 2011.
“I was saddened because early intervention is so important, not only for the child and family, but also on a fiscal level,” Marshall said. “Every dollar we spend on early education saves us $7 as the child enters public education.
“Therefore, it is not only important for children and families, but also for the taxpayers,” she added.
One result of the recent special meeting was a letter of support for Sunflower’s EEC. It states that the EEC continues to meet early intervention needs in compliance with state and federal laws for children birth to 3.
“All children have been served in a timely manner, with the highest standard of professional intervention, … with virtually no parent complaints,” the letter states. “In addition, there have been no complaints or concerns expressed to or by the members of the ICC.”
The letter also notes that the EEC provides its “quality services with transparency and collaboration with partners …”
Marshall said her group is “so fortunate to have such a positive relationship with the EEC. Each of us cares deeply about families and the partnership with the EEC, which results in positive changes for children and families.
“Our relationship continues to grow,” Marshall added. “We are privileged to work with such a professional, caring group of educators.”
The chairman noted that the special meeting was necessary because ICC members wanted to understand how the loss of funding would affect children and families. The letter was written so local and area community leaders could learn about the ICC’s position; it will be circulated in upcoming weeks.
“… all county representatives on the ICC are interested in what happens in any one county that affects early intervention services, such as reductions in county mill levy funding,” the letter states.
The partners in early childhood services share a common goal with the EEC, it continues. That goal is to ensure all children get the services they need to meet optimal developmental milestones and to be free from a lifetime of reliance on government funding.
Early intervention at the ECC can overcome and alleviate many disabilities so that people won’t need services in adulthood, Marshall explained.
The ICC has about 40 members in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, and Stafford counties, which is Sunflower’s service area.
Cathy Estes, Sunflower EEC coordinator, noted that all ICC members are professionals who work for various entities invested in early education and child development. For example, Marshall is coordinator and parent educator for the USD 495 Fort Larned Parents as Teachers program.
“These are not only caring people, they are credentialed people,” Estes said. “Their job is to ensure children get the services they need and our EEC plays a crucial role in delivering those services. Equally important, some of the ICC members are parents.
“We are extremely grateful for the ICC’s support and its concern for children and their families,” Estes continued. “The members understand that Sunflower’s EEC consistently meets all requirements for every policy and procedure. And they know that our hearts are with the children and their families.”
Two EEC staff positions have been left unfilled because of the budget cut. This directly affects the amount of time staff can work with children in family homes. By federal law, the EEC’s infant/toddler program cannot have a waiting list. The necessary services must be provided.
Therefore, Sunflower soon will formally initiate an “Invest in Kids” capital campaign to help recoup the $54,000 loss.