Gov. Laura Kelly and the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund earlier this week announced funding awards to 52 statewide organizations, including several affiliated with school districts, for the purpose of creating new and sustainable high-quality licensed child care slots and to accelerate capacity building in support of families, businesses and economic development.
The announcement was made Tuesday, June 27.
These grants are part of the Child Care Capacity Accelerator grant program, which was designed to advance the rapid development of additional child care slots statewide. The program will provide $43,593,294 in grant funding, which will create 4,211 new child care slots across Kansas.
The Child Care Capacity Accelerator grant program braids together funding from four sources:
The Child Care Capacity Accelerator represents a significant investment in child care and early learning to support economic development, create new jobs with better compensation for early educators, and support workforce participation for families with young children.
Unique to this program is the ability to use SPARK funds to support new construction and facility improvements, which is generally not allowed under other federal funding support for child care. The gift from the Patterson Family Foundation will allow Kansas to add construction to further expand capacity. The funds will support major start-up operational needs, such as expanded staffing, training, furniture and equipment.
“Kansas has wide-ranging challenges related to child care availability that differ depending on where you live,” said Melissa Rooker, executive director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund. “We are excited to distribute resources to a diverse set of grantees to help accelerate access to child care. Having funding sources that allow for construction and major renovation is a game-changer. We look forward to helping guide these projects to completion and hope the success of these efforts provides Kansas families with more options for safe, high-quality child care. This will benefit the workforce of today as we nurture and care for our children, who will become the workforce of tomorrow.”
Grantees will participate in a 12-month cohort program that involves co-creation and peer learning, regular data reporting, rapid-cycle evaluation efforts and monthly coaching sessions.
There were 105 applications submitted, including 11 from school districts that serve as leads for child care facilities. There was a total of $117,890,861 in total Accelerator Grant requests.
There were 38 external reviewers, and an additional internal Cabinet review of applications to ensure viability, geographic diversity, and a diversity of strategies.
The Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund is the designated Kansas Early Childhood Advisory Council. It coordinates and provides oversight for early childhood systems building, including implementation of the strategic plan. The Kansas Children’s Cabinet is comprised of individuals appointed by the governor and the Kansas Legislature.
The grants were awarded during a special meeting on June 23. Awards were based on a competitive request for proposal process that yielded 105 applications totaling over $117 million.
Grantees were required to identify at least 25% matching funds from other sources. The grant period begins July 1, 2023, and extends through September 2026.
A subset of 16 communities also have selected to participate as an Innovation Communities Cohort to document and facilitate statewide distribution of successful strategies and lessons learned to help identify and scale effective and transformative approaches statewide. The bonus funding for this program is provided in part through the PDG B-5 funds.
The breakdown for funding per region is:
A complete list of Accelerator grantees can be accessed at allinforkansaskids.org/accelerator.
Grantees include the following programs affiliated with or operated by school districts:
A map of each awarded project can be found here.
“Big news today for the Neodesha community,” Neodesha USD 461 included on its Facebook page earlier this week. “USD 461 was just awarded two very large grants for a USD 461 Early Learning Center to be built, which will add 99 slots for child care in our community from birth to age 5. We are beyond excited about this great news. It is a great day to be a Bluestreak!”
The post states that the district has been awarded a Child Care Capacity Accelerator grant of $2,491,053. In addition, the district also received an Innovation Community grant award of $250,000.
West Elk USD 282 included a note to families and community members on its website about applying for the grant earlier this school year. The letter states that the district has prioritized in its strategic planning the expansion of early childhood education programming. West Elk has launched a birth through age 5 child care program that is operated by West Elk staff members that is housed in Moline through a partnership with the city of Moline.
“This program is currently at full enrollment capacity with several on the waiting list,” the letter states.
The letter further explains that West Elk was eligible for up to $2 million, and if awarded the funding, the district will construct an early child center on the district’s campus, east of the district office, to serve newborn children and allow for 50 more enrollment slots. The facility would operate five days a week, year-round, the letter states.
“As one of the most disadvantaged counties in the state when measuring licensed child care providers per capita, this initiative would not only support our education process (kindergarten readiness) but also support the economic development in our area,” West Elk’s letter states.
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