FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Improving and expanding early childhood programs in Fairfield County and across the state through a $12 million investment of state funds is the latest education reform proposal from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Malloy on Thursday proposed the allocation to improve the quality of and expand access to early childhood education and day-care programs across the state.
The initiative, which came just before the legislature convenes in Hartford on Feb. 8, would increase day-care slots, improve teacher training and create a preschool rating system to offer more information to parents.
Fairfield County educators and lawmakers support the expansion of early childhood education.
“We are fortunate that Gov. Malloy was the mayor of Stamford and truly understands the vital need to place more of an emphasis on early childhood education, particularly in urban areas where poor children are in need of these programs,” Interim Stamford School Superintendent Winifred Hamilton said in a recent interview.
“We need to reach these children as early as possible so they can thrive later,” Hamilton said.
One Fairfield County legislator also supports the proposal but indicated Thursday she’s concerned about how it would be funded. “It’s a vital education priority to make early childhood education available to more families, and to boost programs so they better address children’s learning needs,” said state Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, whose district also includes part of Norwalk.
“We know the most significant education development takes place by the time a child gets to the third grade, and that considerable early brain development takes place between ages 3 and 5,” said Lavielle, a member of the legislature’s Education and Education Consolidation committees.
Malloy said Thursday his early childhood initiative is one of the keys to education reform in Connecticut. “Every childhood provider and the educators who run their programs need and deserve more support from the state," Malloy said in a statement. "The work they do is critical to our children’s future, and indeed the future of our whole state.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman pointed to the program's benefits. “We know that children who receive early education are more likely to graduate from high school and are less likely to repeat a grade or need special education classes,” Wyman said. “The investment we make in these programs will pay us back dramatically, and lead directly to a better quality of life for our children."
Joseph J. Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said Thursday his group strongly supports starting formal education for children at age 3, instead of age 5.
“Private programs are good, but there needs to be staffing and program standards set statewide and enforced to guarantee quality early childhood education is available to all children,” Cirasuolo said. “We believe it should be available in the public school system.”
Malloy’s proposal would:
• Allocate $4 million in new funds to provide early childhood opportunities for 500 preschool children;
• Enhance quality with $3 million to improve programs by boosting incentives for professional development and partnering with high schools and colleges to provide college level early childhood credits; and
• Secure $5 million in bond funding to create a statewide Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System, so parents can access information on the programs.