In Kentucky, 3,115 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start, and 8 percent of 3-year-olds and 29 percent of 4-year-olds are served by state-funded pre-K. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $6,105. It is a clear priority for the state as evident from upcoming gubernatorial candidates, such as Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who announced that early childhood education will be “the central focus of his campaign,” noting “Just as you can’t build a house without a foundation, it’s harder to educate a young person if their early years are wasted.”
- What the governor is saying: In his State of the State address on Jan. 7, 2014, Gov. Steven Beshear stated, “I will seek legislation needed to implement the goals of the All-STARS plan which will provide for more accountability and better transparency throughout our state’s early childcare system. Getting our children off to a better start in life – all of our children, not just those in wealthy, two-parent households – will dictate our success as a state.” The governor also presented a fiscal budget for 2014-16 that would restore cuts made to Kentucky’s child-care assistance program last year. The plan proposes $53 million be allotted for the program in 2014 and $58 million for 2015-16. Preschool funding will also see a boost of $18 million per year. In June 2014, Gov. Beshear announced that the state would fund 25 bornlearning Academies starting in fall 2014 as part of a $1.4 million expansion of 150 academies across the state. The academies are school-based centers “designed to help parents prepare their preschoolers for kindergarten.”
- What’s happening in the Legislature: In February of this year, the Kentucky House passed a bill “that’s part of an effort to improve kindergarten readiness by expanding training for preschool staffs and broadening use of a rating system to critique day cares and preschools.” The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Derrick Graham and was approved by Kentucky’s House Education Committee.
- Funding increases and additional support: This year Gov. Steve Beshear asked the Legislature to “restore years of funding cuts to public schools,” including restored funding for child care assistance and $18 million a year to expand preschool programs. Kentucky also received a federal “Race to the Top” grant of more than $44 million to upgrade the quality of its early childhood development programs. While in March, a new report found that for every $1 invested in early education in the state, there would be a $1.64 return in new spending. Together, this evidence provided sufficient support for the governor’s plea to restore funding cuts. The report also argued that restoring child-care subsidies would allow more low-income parents to keep their jobs and decrease their need for other forms of public assistance.