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Early Head Start funding

The Hays Daily News

Despite their efficacy, Early Head Start programs throughout the state are experiencing severe financial stress. Designed to promote early childhood development and parenting skills in low-income households, funding has become a question mark of late.

Federal support has decreased dramatically this year as dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 have dried up. State support almost disappeared completely this year. That $11.3 million was eliminated by Gov. Sam Brownback's initial budget before the Legislature restored all but $1 million.

In response to the cuts from both levels, the 14 Early Head Start programs statewide have reduced the number of children they serve. The result has been an increase in waiting lists for these critical services.

When $600,000 was freed up because of the Manhattan EHS' decision to really reduce the number of children they serve — dropping from 78 to 10 — other Early Head Start offices were hopeful the money could be used to decrease their respective waiting lists.

Officials at the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services moved recently to squelch any such optimism. The other EHS offices might get some of the money, but only if they use it to promote fatherhood initiatives that find favor with the governor's office.

According to the Kansas SRS website: "As part of Gov. Sam Brownback's Roadmap to decrease childhood poverty, the agency intends to work with our Early Head Start providers statewide to enhance their fatherhood programs by providing increased opportunities coupled with program development and support."

We're not sure if the governor's roadmap was drawn with any direction from Early Head Start educators. Had his office taken the time to speak with Joan Dunn, coordinator of early childhood connections at the Hays Parents As Teachers/Early Head Start office, they likely would have gleaned the same information we did when we called.

Early Head Start already includes fathers. Dunn said the program has involved fathers for years. The home-based services and the center-based services in Munjor "works with the individual child," Dunn said.

In other words, the program involves whomever is present in the particular household: Father, mother, grandparent, foster parent or guardian. The Hays P.A.T.H.S. tailors its wide variety of services, referrals and educational efforts to best suit the child. Plus, they've been doing it with fewer and fewer resources.

The drastic drop in revenue has forced the local program to reduce its caseload this fall. Instead of three classrooms at Munjor, there now are two. Instead of 90 home-based slots, there are 66. The waiting list for both is bound to get longer.

"I'm concerned that we're launching a new initiative while at the same time we're reducing the number of children receiving Early Head Start services," said Shannon Cotsoradis, chief executive of Kansas Action for Children in an interview with the Kansas Health Institute. "It would make a lot more sense to redirect the $600,000 to children on other (Early Head Start) programs' waiting lists."

That would make sense to us as well. The preschool children targeted by Early Head Start statistically are more vulnerable than the rest of the population. Helping these kids and their families now will save the state a lot more money down the road — whether there's a father in the home or not.

Kobach records

The Hutchinson News

It might be acceptable to give Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach a pass on his campaign and election fund mishaps if his most recent slip-up was his first.

It might be something to overlook if his job as secretary of state didn't make him the top election official in the state, charged with making sure political candidates file timely, accurate and complete campaign reports to the state of Kansas.

But this isn't Kobach's first brush with campaign finance reporting violations, and he is the official charged with overseeing campaign reporting.

In 2004, Kobach unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Congress but failed to update his campaign paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission, showing he had terminated his campaign account, which retained a $77,000 balance. Since then, Kobach eight times failed to reconcile his congressional campaign account. Furthermore, he didn't update an expired post office box, and he failed to tell the FEC that he had served as his own campaign treasurer since 2006.

Then, Kobach had trouble as the head of the Kansas Republican Party. A two-year examination by the FEC brought three violations of federal campaign laws from 2007 and 2008, when Kobach served as chairman.

Kobach's most recent record-keeping troubles show that he omitted about $35,000 in contributions and $43,000 in spending from multiple reports filed from his successful campaign for Kansas secretary of state. The state Governmental Ethics Commission will meet in October to determine whether Kobach's treasurer should be fined for the accounting errors.

To his credit, Kobach isn't shifting blame to his treasurer, Rep. Tom Arpke, R-Salina, but instead argued that the reporting was complicated by a large number of small donations. In fact, he credits Arpke with playing a key role in uncovering the errors.

Nevertheless, there are legitimate questions about how someone with a history of sloppy record-keeping can effectively manage the role of enforcing the record-keeping requirements of other political candidates.

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