Gov. Kelly’s ‘Office of Early Childhood’ proposal introduced in Kansas House and Senate

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Governor Laura Kelly announced Tuesday that her bill to consolidate Kansas’ early childhood care and education services into a single agency — the Office of Early Childhood — has been introduced in both legislative chambers.

According a news release from the governor’s office, this bill consolidates early childhood programs into an existing state agency, the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, and renames the agency to represent its expanded scope.

“By unifying our existing early childhood care and education services under a single umbrella with the Office of Early Childhood, we are one step closer to making Kansas’ early childhood system the most robust in the nation,” Kelly said. “This bill will streamline how we provide services, reducing bureaucratic burdens so more Kansas businesses, child care providers, and families can easily navigate the system and receive support.”

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Under the governor’s proposal, nearly 20 existing state programs designed to support children and families will be consolidated into the Office of Early Childhood. These programs include child care licensing, child care subsidy, home visitation, the current operations of the Children’s Cabinet, and Head Start programs.

The Office would be led by a new Executive Director position who would serve as the state’s lead administrator for these services, be accountable for the state’s early childhood system, and serve legislators and communities with needs relating to early childhood care and education.

The current work and focus of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet Board and staff would remain unchanged, instead becoming a subset of the agency’s larger work supporting children, families, service providers, and communities.

Kelly proposed the Office of Early Childhood following the recommendations of the Early Childhood Transition Task Force, which was formed through the first executive order of her second term, the news release said.

“The Task Force was charged with examining Kansas’ early childhood system and identifying steps the state can take to reduce burdens placed on families, increase accountability for early childhood programs, and eliminate inefficiencies and gaps in service,” the governor’s office said. “Currently, four different state agencies are involved in providing early childhood services.”

The Task Force’s final report recommended that Kansas unify its “early childhood care and education services into a single state entity.”

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“Consolidating Kansas’ early childhood care and education services into one entity will make the system more easily accessible for all Kansas children and families,” said Early Childhood Transition Task Force Co-Chairs Sam Huenergardt and Cornelia Stevens. “Governor Kelly’s commitment to improving Kansas’ early childhood system is unwavering. We are proud of the bill introduced to unify these services into the Office of Early Childhood following the Task Force’s final recommendation.”

The bill was introduced in the House Child Welfare and Foster Care Committee and in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Both Republican and Democrat legislators joined Kelly in supporting the legislation.

“The Office of Early Childhood could allow us to better support Kansas children and families by centralizing all services under one existing agency,” said Senator Molly Baumgardner, Kansas Senate District 37. “This is an important opportunity to increase accountability and transparency in our entire early childhood system.”

“With bipartisan support, it’s clear that unifying Kansas’ early childhood services into the Office of Early Childhood is a gamechanger for children and families,” said Senator Pat Pettey, Kansas Senate District 6. “Thanks to this bill, parents, businesses, and childcare providers will no longer have to navigate the maze that is our current system. I urge my colleagues to support this plan to put the Office of Early Childhood into statute.”

“The Office of Early Childhood is a win for Kansas children and families in every corner of our state,” said Senator Brenda Dietrich, Kansas Senate District 20. “Ensuring our early childhood system operates under one roof will prevent redundancies and inefficiencies, allowing more Kansans to access essential services without obstacles.”

“I am proud to join Governor Kelly in supporting Kansas children and families by consolidating our early childhood care and education services into the Office of Early Childhood,” said Representative Susan Ruiz, Kansas House District 23. “This singular entity will serve as a one-stop-shop for all Kansans seeking early childhood services. Centralizing these services will reduce barriers that currently exist due to the system operating across multiple state agencies.”

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