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Wyandotte County Wants To Improve Pre-K Access And Quality, Too

Courtesy Scott Hanson
The Family Conservancy
The Family Conservancy board member Sandra Olivas, a native of Wyandotte County, explains how the business community came together to provide $1 million in matching funds for the Start Young pre-K initiative.

There aren’t enough licensed child care centers in Wyandotte County to serve all working families with young children, according to a community health assessment.

That’s why the Family Conservancy and other community groups are launching the Start Young initiative to improve access to high-quality child care for kids younger than 6.

“We know that 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 5,” says Paula Neth, vice president of programs at the Family Conservancy. “We’re really committed to, as we build capacity, to make sure that it’s quality because we know that those first five years matter.”

Pre-K has been the talk of the town this week as Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James fights for preschool funded by a sales tax that’s unpopular with area school districts and some city councilmembers. The smaller-scale Wyandotte County program isn’t designed to pay for pre-K but to improve access and quality. It’s being funded with $1 million from the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and a community match.

“One of the things we’ve heard from our child care center partners is that parents have a hard time accessing the state child care subsidy system,” Neth says. “So we are going to be hiring some child care subsidy advocates that are going to really work with this parents to help them get through the application process.”

Start Young has also allocated dollars for “gap funding” to help families pay for child care until their subsidy comes through.

“The community has really come together,” Neth says. “We know that Wyandotte County continues to rank at the bottom when it comes to poverty, health and other outcomes. The importance of high quality, accessible child care can’t be overstated to change that trajectory for children.”

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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