FundKidsFirstRally_lowres-36Kids’ champions and kids themselves gathered on Monday morning and rocked the Rotunda.  Folks who had been impacted by child care cuts and kinship care cuts and folks who had received a “hand up” for a better life because of those supports stood and eloquently shared their stories.

There were more than a few moist eyes as those gathered heard stories about a grandmother worried about what would happen if the five grandchildren she was raising entered foster care … about how a mom was using child care assistance so she could go to school which then landed her a job at Harvard – all because she had the supports required.  They heard a legion of the cutest of three and four year old advocates remind us all that it is raining on Kentucky’s kids with their pep rally-styled chant of “Rain!  Rain!  Go away! We just want to learn and play!”  Their presence seemed to inspire the citizens as they gathered and definitely caught the attention of the legislators as they made their way into the House Chambers to begin the special legislative session.

FundKidsFirstRally_lowres-75But let’s be clear — the real take away reminder is that the state budget … at its core … is about priorities.  Period.  Not about dollars and cents.  Not about projection shortfalls or revenue upticks.  Every decision made with every dollar is a value statement.

Which roads get built and which ones don’t?  That is a decision about priorities.  Which programs are expanded and which ones are extinguished?  That is a decision about priorities.  Where are tax incentives applied and where are tax revenues expended?  That is a decision about priorities.  And the decision to slash supports for kinship and child care supports was also a decision about priorities.  Who is seen as important can somewhat be determined by looking at budget lines.

I was surprised – and can I say pleased? – at what someone described as the “edginess” of the Rally.  It was loud.  It was raucous.  It was animated.  And it was straight up talk that Kentucky kids and families can’t be pushed to the breaking point any longer. It was about the crucial need to restore these cuts immediately and to then build a sustainable and adequate budget for Kentucky’s kids.

FundKidsFirstRally_lowres-69You could tell that the folks standing around the Lincoln statue knew what is at stake, because they have been seeing the results of those cuts in how their neighbors are living their lives in the most real of ways — a single mom having to quit her job because she lost child care assistance — a grandmother raising her grandkids but who can’t get support to help her with the unexpected costs she has in caring for those children. These cuts are not some theoretical budget construct.  Instead, they are invading on the well-being of Kentucky’s families in immediate and real ways.

My sincere thanks go to every Kentuckian who raised the Capitol roof in Frankfort on Monday.  And thanks go, as well, to those of you who weren’t able to physically be in Frankfort but who took the time to let the Governor and your legislators know that you, too, expect kids to be a first priority when it comes to state funding.

We will continue to ask the Governor and our legislators to create a budget that promotes strong families. It is what Kentucky must do to promote sustainable families and children that grow up to be thriving adults. Our state cannot afford to shortchange kids anymore. It’s time to make kids a priority in the state budget.