TOPEKA - As the 2015 fiscal year officially draws to a close, so does Kansas’ most reliable source of funding for programs to benefit Kansas kids: the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund (KEY Fund).
Kansas Action for Children released data today detailing the tremendous impact repeated sweeps have had on funding for children’s programs since 1999. The KEY Fund, which would have a balance of approximately $200 million had all funding promises been honored, will instead reach a record low of only $140,000 by fiscal year 2017.
“When policymakers established a children’s endowment in 1999, the whole premise was to build a funding structure that could sustain itself and protect critical children’s programs over the long term,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, President and CEO at Kansas Action for Children. “But because lawmakers chipped away at the fund year by year to use it as a temporary budget stopgap, we have nearly - and likely permanently - depleted it. These short-term decisions have devastating long-term consequences to both our kids and our economy.”
The Kansas Legislature swept a total of almost $200 million from the fund since 2000. Had that $200 million been invested consistently as originally promised, its earnings would have resulted in at least $365 million in available resources for early childhood development programs.
Studies prove that investment in early childhood development generates significant return on investment. On average, every one dollar invested in Kansas kids generates between four dollars and nine dollars back into the state economy. In other words, had lawmakers kept their promise to Kansas kids and fully funded the KEY Fund over the years, its return on investment for the Kansas economy would be worth at least $1.46 billion.
“The KEY fund is not just about the safety net,” said Torree Pederson, President of the Alliance for Childhood Education, a coalition of business leaders both large and small committed to improving Kansas’ economic vitality through early childhood education. “It’s also about the Kansas economy. It takes time and resources to grow a competitive workforce, but leaders in the private sector understand the difference between an expense and an investment. If lawmakers are serious about running state government more like a business, they need to learn the difference too. The KEY Fund’s lost return on investment will have a more damaging long-term impact on our economy than reducing the short-term expense of programs for children and families.”