Budget plan undermines assistance for children.

Of problems with a new budget plan approved by Kansas lawmakers and there are many moves to target the vulnerable in Kansas hurt the most.

And that would include programs to help children.

As part of attempts to offset a severe budget shortfall brought about by income-tax breaks for wealthy Kansans, lawmakers approved a budget plan that included a $9.5 million sweep from the Kansas Endowment for Youth (KEY) into the state's general fund.

The KEY fund and Children's Initiatives Fund (CIF) were created as a result of nationwide tobacco litigation in the late 1990s. Legislation called for tobacco dollars received by Kansas to go directly to the KEY fund, an endowment established for the long-term benefit of funding children's programs through the CIF and a sensible investment in the state's future.

The funds have supported many good early-childhood programs in Kansas, such as Head Start, Parents as Teachers and newborn health screening.

Unfortunately, significant endowment funding was raided by lawmakers over the years, jeopardizing future programs for children. The assault continued in the last session, even as Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his ultraconservative allies claimed their financial strategies represent an engine for growth.

Targeting aid for children is no way to encourage economic prosperity. But as much was to be expected in a budget plan that also subjects higher education a known driver of economic development to deep cuts.

A plan to generate economic growth has to acknowledge the potential that exists in all young Kansans. Education and health care are vital, starting with prenatal care and throughout a child's developmental years.

Credit Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, for acknowledging as much in expressing concern over the financial raid on the KEY fund.

Hineman knows the importance of early-childhood education thanks in part to his wife's experience operating a preschool. He and others who support adequate funding for children's programs know a smart economic development strategy ensures that every child receives a solid start in life.

Children are the key to our future. Those who would undermine programs in place to give Kansas children a foundation for success apparently believe otherwise.