Creating More Pre-K Opportunities for the Littlest Learners Across Connecticut

Nearly four dozen school districts will be expanding pre-K classes to more low-income families in an effort to close the achievement gap, state officials say.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, joined by Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood, Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, and local officials, at the Meriden YMCA Child Care Center, on June 11, 2014. Photo: Flickr.com.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, joined by Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood, Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, and local officials, at the Meriden YMCA Child Care Center, on June 11, 2014. Photo: Flickr.com.

In an attempt to close the achievement gap for low-income students, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, announced the allocation of 1,020 additional School Readiness opportunities for low-income children in 46 towns and cities throughout Connecticut.

The announcement was made Wednesday at the Meriden YMCA where he was joined by Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood, Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, and local officials. 

The expansion will slightly more than double the number of school readiness opportunities created back in 2012, when Malloy approved a similar expansion of 1,000 School Readiness opportunities for children throughout the state.

“Investing in high-quality education is the single most important investment we can make in our state and our economy. That has driven my efforts from day one as Mayor of Stamford and Governor of Connecticut,” Malloy said. “With this expansion, we are taking immediate steps to provide 1,020 additional children in low-income families with a strong start and foundation for lifelong success.”

To be eligible for School Readiness funding, programs must be accredited or pursuing accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or be a Federal Head Start approved program. The additional 1,020 opportunities will become available at the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year.

The expansion was included in Public Act 14-39 which was signed by Malloy in May. The School Readiness Program is a state-funded program which provides high-quality preschool to low-income 3- and 4-year olds in Priority and Competitive School Districts in Connecticut. 

Priority School districts include the eight towns in the state with the largest population, the top 11 towns with the highest number of children under the temporary family assistance program, and the top 11 towns with the highest ratio of children under the temporary family assistance program. A Competitive School District is a town that has a priority school (a school in which 40 percent or more of the lunches served go to students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch) or any town ranked in the bottom 50 towns in the state in town wealth.

“We know that low-income children who have not had access to high-quality preschool face greater challenges in comparison to their wealthier peers who have had high-quality preschool experiences,” said Jones-Taylor. “This expansion will give 1,020 more 3- and 4-year-olds a chance to grow and learn in an enriched learning environment with qualified teachers, providing them with the experience they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond ... (and) bring us closer to closing the achievement gap.”

The expansion of 1,020 opportunities is part of a five-year plan to expand the School Readiness Program to serve a total of 4,010 additional children by 2019. 

“Access to school readiness programs is critical to providing quality educational opportunities for all children and significantly increasing their chances for future success,” said Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden).  “Having school readiness slots available to as many young children as possible not only better prepares them for grade school but is also a solid long term investment for taxpayers.”  

“Early childhood education gives our kids the tools they need to succeed in the classroom and in the future,” said House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin, Southington).  “These additional School Readiness slots provide children who are most at risk the opportunity to get ahead at an early age.”

“From Greenwich to Enfield to Groton, this increased funding will change the education trajectory of thousands of Connecticut children for the better,” said State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), who is Senate Vice-Chairwoman of the legislature's Education Committee and a longtime advocate of school readiness.   

Connecticut Smart Start will provide grants in 2015 for the renovation of existing public school classrooms to accommodate public preschool programs. Up to $100 million for renovations will be available over a 10-year period, with a maximum of $10 million per year. Funding for public preschool classrooms will begin in FY16 with $100 million in operating funding available over a 10-year period (maximum $10 million per year) from the Tobacco Settlement Fund.

Priority School Districts and the number of approved spaces:

  • Ansonia: 3
  • Bloomfield: 8
  • Bridgeport: 126
  • Bristol: 73
  • Danbury: 7
  • East Harftord: 39
  • Harftord: 40
  • Meriden: 35
  • Middletown: 6
  • New Britain: 101
  • New Haven: 8
  • New London: 12
  • Norwalk: 70
  • Norwich: 36
  • Stamford: 37
  • Waterbury: 15
  • West Haven: 5
  • Windham: 31

Competitive School Districts and the number of approved spaces:

  • Chaplin: 2
  • Colchester: 1
  • Coventry: 3
  • East Haven: 12
  • Enfield: 3
  • Greenwich: 5
  • Griswold: 26
  • Groton: 13
  • Hamden: 29
  • Killingly: 35
  • Lebanon: 4
  • Ledyard: 3
  • Manchester: 26
  • Milford: 29
  • Naugatuck: 8
  • North Canaan: 3
  • Plainville: 10
  • Shelton: 20
  • Sprague: 6
  • Thomaston:2
  • Torrington: 23
  • Vernon: 30
  • Voluntown: 15
  • West Hartford: 12
  • Winchester: 7
  • Windsor: 10
  • Windsor Locks: 24
  • Wolcott: 7

Connecticut15 June 17, 2014 at 08:38 AM
Bridgeport BOE went bankrupt - no wonder there are issues in city schools. - some teachers report that if it rains, the children don't come to school because the parents don't want to deal with 'bad weather.' Valuing education must begin in families. A notable college prep company provided free classes for students to prepare for standardized tests - still no one came despite the teachers being prepared to teach but who oversaw empty classrooms.
Connecticut15 June 17, 2014 at 08:42 AM
But take notice, that almost all progressive policies begin with 'the narrative,' i.e., the story whether true or not. When you ask for the data and objective sources underlaying their claims, most times the reaction is hostility and name calling. Continue to request and require the data. Require your representatives to provide it to you their constituents before it becomes law. Pass the information to others. No more one-sided narratives. Share your stories and see how they compare.
Igor June 17, 2014 at 08:44 AM
Waterford I have to agree with you. Just another way for the parent to pawn their children off for someone else to watch. Give them time to make some more they don't want to watch.
Diana June 17, 2014 at 11:08 AM
@CT15 - you are ABSOLUTELY correct - until parents take education seriously and pass that along to their children, nothing will make a difference. When I was little, there was no such thing as Pre-K. Preschool was a limited and expensive option for working parents and was the equivalent of daycare today. I and my siblings, my husband and his siblings, and all of our friends turned out just fine and did very well in school and are successful adults - all without attending Pre-K. It had nothing to do with attending Pre-K. It was having responsible parental guidance.
MAC June 17, 2014 at 03:02 PM
It's not only the babysitting at TAXPAYER expense! As CT15 alluded, in mentioning the "progressive policies begin with..."--this is part of the Leftist plot to control and INDOCTRINATE children at younger and younger ages!--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Remember the Obama campaign using the infamous "Julia," who couldn't do anything in life without the "government's help"--and more recently "Pajama boy"?!! That theme was not just a short-lived marketing campaign for Democrats, but sadly all too true in the view (and lives) of too many millions of Americans. They, and we who don't fight against this encroaching TYRANNY, and inform others, are being led carefully down the path to Serfdom!!!!!


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