FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 28, 2022) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood will receive nearly $8 million of Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funds to promote early childhood education.
“Building a better Kentucky starts with making sure our children have a strong foundation from the beginning,” said Gov. Beshear. “As a parent, I understand how important it is for every child to have the opportunity to grow and succeed, and these funds help ensure that they have just that.”
The funds will provide developmental screeners for parents of children from birth to 3 years old. The screener is a short, easy-to-use questionnaire that parents can complete to see if their children are meeting developmental and social-emotional milestones and to help identify potential delays in the critical first years before they start school.
Families may access Ages & Stages Questionnaires® through various pediatric practices, preschools, health departments, state programs and local agencies as well as through Help Me Grow Kentucky. Some child care centers also offer this screening tool through Child Care Aware. And for more information about having your child screened, contact your Early Childhood Regional Collaborative in your area by emailing ECCouncil@ky.gov.
“We must continue to work to ensure that all children in the commonwealth are healthy, connected to prevention services and have high-quality childhood experiences from the beginning, because we know that when children start behind, they often stay behind,” said Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link.
“Children and parents need to be connected to preventive services along with the birth-to-5 pathway well before kindergarten. We need to reach all children, as early as possible to make a significant positive impact on their development,” said Amy Neal, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood. “Over the next three years, we are going to work with partners throughout the commonwealth to expand the use of screeners so we can get children on track early.”
The Governor added that the funding is in addition to the $1.4 million the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood already receives from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement each fiscal year.
Early Childhood Funding
As an education-first administration, Team Kentucky is excited that this year’s budget request of $125.9 million won legislative approval and fully funds full-day kindergarten for the children of the commonwealth. During the next two years, Gov. Beshear has allotted $1.4 million for the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood. In addition, the state is investing $6 million in the state’s Regional Collaborative Network, which is tasked with uniting organizations in local communities to address the critical early years of a child’s life.
Kentucky Governor’s Office of Early Childhood
In 2009, the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Development and Education recommended establishing the Early Childhood Advisory Council and the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood to promote an early childhood framework and partnering with Kentucky’s state agencies, communities and families to ensure kindergarten readiness for Kentucky children. The council serves as an umbrella organization that creates better coordination for the state’s early childhood funds and programs.
Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
In 1998, state attorneys general and the United States’ largest tobacco companies agreed to a settlement that reimburses states for past tobacco-related costs. Under the agreement, the tobacco companies arranged to make annual payments, beginning in 1999, in perpetuity, worth approximately $208 billion to states and territories, including Kentucky, that are signatories to the agreement. Each state determines how the funds are spent, and Kentucky’s General Assembly determines how they are allocated.