Gov. Dannel Malloy and Executive Director of the Office of Early Childhood Myra Jones-Taylor talk about Connecticut education initiatives.
“Let’s commit Connecticut to achieving universal pre-kindergarten,” said Governor Malloy. “This plan is about moving to universal access to early childhood opportunities for all children, regardless of income. We’re not going to get there overnight, which is why I am calling for a phase-in plan that will expand to 4,000 new opportunities by 2019. But let me assure you, we will get there.”
“Providing an opportunity for every child to develop good learning skills at an early age is not only critical to their future as individuals, but to the future of Connecticut,” said Lt. Governor Wyman. “Early education can truly change lives, and help solidify the long-term economic direction of our state. This investment will pay us back dramatically, and lead to a better quality of life for our children now and when they become adults.”
The plan calls for full-day pre-K opportunities for 1,020 children for fiscal year 2015, and will expand to serve a total of 4,010 additional children by 2019. Eligibility will be based on income and will use the existing eligibility requirements for the state’s School Readiness program. In addition to increasing opportunities, the plan will also increase reimbursement rates for state-funded Child Day Care Centers and School Readiness programs and provide funding for startup grants for classrooms.
“Time and again, it has been proven that access to a high-quality pre-K experience increases student achievement,” said Senate President Donald E. Williams, Jr., (D-Brooklyn). “Early childhood education sets children on the path toward lifelong learning success. It is essential to ensure that Connecticut’s students arrive at kindergarten ready to learn and graduate from high school ready to compete at the next level.”
“There is no better long-term investment than the future of our young children, and pre-K is a proven program for increasing the chances of future success in and out of the classroom,” said Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden). “Pre-K plays an important role in ensuring educational opportunity and shouldn’t only be available for those who can afford it.”
“Putting children, families & education first, by investing in universal pre-kindergarten is the right thing to do — it gives our children the tools they need for success both in and out of the classroom, “ said House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin, Southington). “I appreciate Governor Malloy’s strong support for early education programs.”
Governor Malloy’s proposal calls on the Office of Early Childhood to develop a plan regarding universal pre-K access to submit to the Governor by January 1, 2015.
“The Governor’s plan for universal access to pre-K in Connecticut is a win-win,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, Executive Director for the Office of Early Childhood. “Not only does the plan increase access to pre-K for our most vulnerable children, but it also results in a higher quality experience for our children by increasing rates for providers.”
Based on existing data, including the number of children currently enrolled in the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program in low-income districts, the percentage of children estimated who do not attend a child care program, and the number of children already accessing state-funded programs within low-income districts, it was determined that there was an unmet need of 4,010 3- and 4-year-old low-income children who did not have access to pre-K. The call for universal access will provide these 4,010 children, who would otherwise not be able to attend pre-K, access to a high-quality early learning program.
The plan will provide full-day pre-K for approximately 1,000 additional children for each of the first three years and 500 children during each of the last two years of the plan. The additional 1,020 opportunities for the coming year will become available at the beginning of the 2015 school year.
In addition to universal access to pre-K, the Governor’s proposed budget included funding for a quality rating and improvement system for child care providers and improvements to the state’s child care licensing system.