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KAC October Newsletter

KAC President John Wilson
Poverty threatens Kansas kids over their lifetimes

Kansas kids face a poverty emergency.
 
Some 103,000 children in the state live at the poverty line or below. That means roughly $21,000 a year for a family of three people. More than 40,000 children in the state live in deep poverty, in which a family of three makes less than $11,000 a year.
 
These children do not have enough to eat. These children do not have secure housing. These children do not have access to an array of services that so many Kansans take for granted. And these children are members of communities across the state - from the biggest cities to the smallest rural towns.
 
We can do better for these kids.
 
I'm honored to serve as the new president of Kansas Action for Children. It's an exciting time for me and the organization, which is celebrating its 40th birthday this year.
 
KAC was founded by the Junior League of Topeka, Junior League of Wichita, Junior League of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties, and the Kansas Children's Service League. These four organizations wanted to establish an independent voice in the state for Kansas children, and an organization that could consistently and authoritatively lobby legislators on issues affecting children in the crucial birth-to-8 developmental window. 
 
Over the years, we have tackled issues including child care safety, foster care, car seat safety, and teen pregnancy. We've protected the Children's Initiatives Fund, which supports early childhood programs. But we've recently notched our biggest victory: helping overturn disastrous tax policy passed under former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. We understood that until the state's finances were in order, we couldn't make the investments Kansas kids need.
 
Our state's residents agree that all children should have nurturing homes, great education, and access to healthcare. If children have their needs met, they are more likely to thrive. We also know that investments in work and family support programs - cash assistance, nutrition assistance and child care assistance - are some of the most efficient and tested ways to meet those needs.
 
Unfortunately, barriers have been put in place that makes those programs too difficult for many to access. Lifetime limits on supports, cross-program sanctions and other onerous restrictions are harming children today.
 
It's time to seize the moment.
 
So many efforts are underway to improve the education of our state's children. A preschool development grant has allowed the state to explore comprehensive supports for early learning. A bipartisan, bicameral early learning caucus has met for the last two sessions. Gov. Laura Kelly's education and tax councils have been digging into the basics of what makes our state work for the next generation. All of these are ways to talk about what Kansas kids need. It's a golden opportunity for legislators, advocates and the general public to come together and create profound change.
 
We can remove the barriers. We can solve the poverty emergency. But it will take all of us, collaborating as a state, investing in our youngest residents. We need champions for kids in every sector and in every community around the state.

I look forward to working together --
John Wilson

John Wilson featured on 'Capitol Insider' podcast

John Wilson appeared on the Oct. 6 edition of the "Capitol Insider" podcast, produced by the Topeka Capital-Journal, to outline KAC's latest priorities.

As the Capital-Journal's Tim Carpenter wrote: " John Wilson, the incoming president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kansas Action for Children, said a handful of states adopted laws allowing employees, employers or the state to contribute to a fund providing up to 12 weeks of financial support for job-protected time away from work. The leave would be devoted to bonding with a child entering the family or to care for a seriously ill family member. ... 

"T he idea was among policy reforms endorsed by KAC to improve the lives of children from birth to 5 years of age. At this stage of development, he said, the stakes were high for kids and the long-term return on investment in the family safety net could be most pronounced."

A fond farewell for Annie McKay


Kansas Action for Children staff and friends were on hand Tuesday, Oct. 29, for the Mainstream Coalition's annual Stand Up, Speak Out dinner. Besides having a delicious dinner and enjoying an address from Gov. Laura Kelly, the KAC crew bid a group farewell to departing President and CEO Annie McKay, who is heading to the Washington, D.C., Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as Director of Network Equity and Inclusion. CBPP is one of KAC's national partners, and we look forward to working closely with Annie in the future!

From left, bottom row: Outreach Specialist Mitch Rucker, Director of Policy and Research Emily Fetsch, Sister Therese Bangert of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Communications Director Clay Wirestone, former assistant research analyst Michael Raven, and Vice President Adrienne Olejnik.

From left, top row: McKay, Research and Policy Analyst Tate Mullen, President John Wilson, and Director of Organizational Effectiveness Jami Jones.
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