An unexpected windfall for early childhood education

After declining for years, smoking went on the rise again during the pandemic. That’s the bad news.

The good news is more smoking means more money for early childhood education in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Governor’s Office of Early Childhood will receive nearly $6 million in additional funds from the annual Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to support quality, early experiences for children and families throughout the state. 

In 1998, state attorneys general and the country’s largest tobacco companies agreed to a settlement that reimburses states for past tobacco-related costs. Under the agreement, the companies committed to make annual payments in perpetuity, worth approximately $208 billion to states and territories, including Kentucky, that signed the agreement. 

In Kentucky, 25% of the annual settlement funds are dedicated to early child care and education programs. In 2021, the state early childhood office received $1.4 million of the original allotment, then received an additional $5,994,686 because the 2021 receipts for tobacco products were higher than estimated, the governor’s office says.

The governor’s Early Childhood Advisory Council will direct the money to local communities through the Community Early Childhood Councils grant program. Local councils apply for grants to increase the quality of experiences for young children to better prepare them for kindergarten.

“Kentucky is primed to transform and amplify its work in serving young children, their parents and caregivers. The best way to do that is on the regional and local levels through the Community Early Childhood Councils where caregivers, parents and community partners are directly involved in planning and implementing local solutions,” says Amy Neal, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood.

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Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.