FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- A Danbury early childhood advocate is pleased to get support from the top after Gov. Dannel Malloy called for universal access to prekindergarten in his State of the State Address and then took his education message on the road.
Malloy's plan calls for full-day pre-K opportunities for 1,020 children for fiscal year 2015, expanding to serve a total of 4,010 additional children by 2019.
"We're excited that the governor is recognizing the importance of quality preschool in preparing children for success in school, and we hope to see more funding come to Danbury so more of our low-income children will have access to quality early learning experiences," said Caroline LaFleur, director of Danbury's Promise for Children Partnership.
"In Danbury, we've proven that quality preschool prepares children for the kindergarten door. We know that the best investment the state can make is in the future our children."
Under Malloy's plan, eligibility would be based on income and use the existing eligibility requirements for the state’s School Readiness Program. The plan would also increase reimbursement rates for state-funded Child Day Care Centers and School Readiness programs and provide funding for start-up grants for classrooms.
“Let’s commit Connecticut to achieving universal prekindergarten,” Malloy said in a visit last week to a school in Hamden. “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.”
Malloy’s proposal calls on the state Office of Early Childhood to develop a plan regarding universal pre-K access by Jan. 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.”
The proposal is based on state data that determined that there was an unmet need of 4,010 low-income children ages 3 and 4 who did not have access to pre-K.
The plan would provide full-day pre-K for 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 would become available at the beginning of the 2015 school year.
“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. Gov. Nancy 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.”