In Connecticut, 10 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool funded by the state and approximately 1,220 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $12,973. By restoring funding after $16 million in cuts and adding $1,290 per early childhood pupil, the state also went on record as having the largest one-year increase in early childhood spending in the 2012-2013 school year. This momentum has continued this year with Gov. Dannel Malloy and the state legislature each devising a plan to increase investments and enroll more kids in early learning programs. Currently, Connecticut is working towards providing universal pre-K for all kids in the state.
- What the governor is saying: Gov. Malloy called for a $14 million investment in early childhood education in his State of the State speech. This investment would provide more than 1,000 additional preschool slots for a total of 4,000 slots. His four-year plan would invest a total of $51 million in early learning by 2019. “We know that early education is one of the best ways to level the playing field for students,” he said. “We know it, because we’ve seen it firsthand.” In June 2014, Gov. Malloy announced the allocation of 1,020 additional pre-K slots across the state.
- What the governor has accomplished: Understanding the growing importance of early childhood education, Gov. Dannel Malloy recently signed into law a bill which established a Connecticut Office of Early Childhood and expanded preschool in the state. The bill will add more than 1,000 slots for children to attend high-quality preschool programs through the state’s School Readiness Program, and establishes the Connecticut Smart Start Program to provide grants that will expand early childhood opportunities for low-income children. The legislation also requires that teachers become certified, programs receive accreditation and limits class sizes to 16 children. In celebrating these successes and those to come, the Governor and the Office of Early Childhood held a Pre-K to 3rd Grade Symposium during the Week of the Young Child in April. The event raised awareness about the importance of investing in universal access to early childhood education.
- What advocates are saying: In a February 2014 editorial, the Hartford Courant emphasized the importance of quality when providing universal preschool for all children in the state. The largest newspaper in the state called for higher standards and more effective teachers in the state’s pre-K program. Representatives from Connecticut Voices for Children, a research and advocacy group, have also praised the bipartisan support for early childhood education in the state.
- What’s happening in the legislature: State lawmakers have been vocal about their support for expanding early childhood education in Connecticut. The state Senate voted 32-2 in favor of the pre-K bill while the state House of Representatives quickly moved it forward.