As the volunteer Board of Directors of Sunflower Diversified Services representing five counties in our area, we were extremely disappointed to learn that the Barton County Commission has again decided to significantly reduce the funding for our early education program. This reduction of 25% comes after the cut from last year of 20% to the 2013 budget. Local funding is critical to the success of this program.
As you know, Sunflower is a non-profit agency serving individuals with a developmental disability or delay for nearly 50 years. The early education component of our services is critical for children whose development is delayed for any number of reasons. Sunflower is the only organization in this area providing a full range of educational and therapeutic services for children birth to age 3. There are countless studies that emphasize the importance of early intervention.
So, we would ask – “Why is funding for this program being cut?” Is it, as one Commissioner stated, that providing funding for early education services is not a function of government? To that question we would have to respond - “If you do not believe government exists to serve individuals, particularly those with disabilities, then what is the purpose of government?”
Most of our families could never afford on their own the services Sunflower provides for their child. Perhaps that is why the federal government has mandated special education in the public schools. Knowing that 85% of brain development occurs in the first 3 years
of life and that early detection and educational intervention can overcome a developmental delay and eliminate the need for special education, why would we not use our resources to affect that outcome?
Barton County’s cuts are particularly noticeable when the funding of the other four counties has remained constant or increased throughout these many years. Sadly, Barton County was the leader in all of Kansas when these programs were started. It is with that support that the early education program has grown to serve thousands of children and their families since its inception in 1966.
We would ask the commission to reconsider its decision to cut funding for this critical program. But moreover, we believe the Commission needs to rethink the very purpose of government. A budget is more than just a list of expenditures. It is an expression of our values. We believe there is no more valued function of government than to help provide for the early education of children with special needs.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sunflower Board president