Kindergarten Readiness

Quality early childhood education for our region’s youngest is both a moral and economic imperative. It’s the right thing to do and it’s a long-term workforce development strategy.

One in three Kansas City kids doesn’t have the skills they need when they start kindergarten. They’re already behind before they begin - leading to a variety of challenges all the way into adulthood. The KC Chamber wants to change that through this Big 5 idea focused on early childhood education.

The “Why”

Research shows that 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the time that child is five years old. Getting kids off to the right start pays off, increasing graduation rates and income earned over one’s life. It also reduces juvenile delinquency, addictions, learning disabilities, obesity and other health issues, lowering welfare costs, and even decreasing crime.

The Future

Early childhood education is a long-term investment in developing Kansas City’s next generation workforce. KC is already suffering from a shortage of college graduates to fulfill today’s job openings, and the situation is only going to get worse without attention. And for every $1 spent on early childhood education, society sees an estimated ROI of $13.

The How

The KC Chamber collaborates with education stakeholders throughout Greater Kansas City to connect every child, every family, and every community with the necessary tools to launch successful educational careers on the first day of Kindergarten. We have a targeted public policy agenda, we continue to educate the business community on the importance of the early years, and we are working with strategic partners toward a kindergarten ready Kansas City. We do this work with many partners, including Sesame Street in Communities.

Sesame Street in Communities

Learn more about the resources Sesame Street in Communities offers.


The goal to bring quality early childhood education to all children in the KC region is led by two former mayors and educators.

Kay Barnes, Park University

Co-champion Kay Barnes is the former mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, who played a key part in the revitalization of downtown Kansas City. Today she serves as Park University’s senior director for university engagement. 

Carol Marinovich, Donnelly College

Co-Champion Carol Marinovich started her career as a teacher, and later served 10 years as Mayor of and Mayor/CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, playing a key role in the city/county unification. She is currently an adjunct professor at Donnelly College. 

What Other Cities Are Doing

A total of 43 states now offer some form of publicly-funded Pre-K education, as well as a number of cities.

Boston is one of them, as Chamber members discovered on the Chamber’s 2017 Leadership Exchange visit. There are 6,000 four-year-olds living in the City of Boston. Nearly 90 percent of them are enrolled in a formal Pre-K program, which is supported, in part, by $16 million allocated by Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston.

The Chamber’s 2018 Leadership Exchange city is Denver, where about 70 percent of the city’s four-year-olds are in publicly-funded Pre-K programs. The Denver Preschool Program is funded through a sales tax passed in 2006 and renewed again in 2014. So far, the program has spent more than $80 million and served more than 41,000 students.  

With strong support of its business community, San Antonio approved a 1/8 cent sales tax in 2012 to fund “Pre-K 4 SA.” Then-Mayor Julian Castro made passage of the tax a priority for his administration, calling it a workforce development program with a long-term payoff. A study of the Pre-K 4 SA program showed significant gains for the young students: while kids started their year below the national average in cognition, math, and literacy, they finished the year above the average.  
In Coffeyville, Kansas, the goal was to provide high-quality, universal preschool for all students in Coffeyville. With a grant from the Children’s Initiative Fund and other resources, they’ve steadily worked over the last nine years toward that goal, eventually forming a 501c3 that would enable education leaders to apply for tax credits and create a new coalition of which businesses could be a part.  

For each of the past four years, Coffeyville has seen:

  • Decreases in behavior referrals (over 35 percent) 
  • Increases in attendance rates to an average of 98 percent attendance in each grade level. 
  • Significant decreases in special education referrals at each grade level.