Statutory language should be revised so that all low-income children, no matter where they live, are eligible for state-funded, high-quality early childhood programs. Additionally, the OEC should estimate the preschool needs for all children, and not just those who live in low-income communities.
Current Connecticut Statute
School Readiness is the state’s major high quality early childhood program. Since 2012, about 2,000 new slots have been funded in Connecticut’s School Readiness program.[i]
Section 85 of P.A. 14-39[ii] limits eligibility for School Readiness programs to children who live in about 70 communities with high concentrations of low-income children. Because families have to live in school readiness communities for their children to be eligible for School Readiness programs,[iii] up to 2,500 low-income children are excluded from the program.[iv]
In addition to excluding possibly thousands of low-income children from School Readiness, Section 84 of P.A. 14-39 also limits the study of universal preschool to children living in the 70 School Readiness communities.[v]
There are dozens of rigorous studies that have shown that high-quality early childhood programs can provide low-income children with gains in early language, literacy, and numeracy.[vi] However, many low-income children are not reached by the state’s School Readiness program because they do not live in School Readiness communities.
[ii] P.A. 14-39, “An Act Establishing the Office of Early Childhood, Expanding Opportunities for Early Childhood Education and Concerning Dyslexia and Special Education.”
[iii] “Administered State-Funded Program General Policy14-03”CONNECTICUT STATE OFFICE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD, retrieved from: http://www.ct.gov/oec/lib/oec/earlycare/sr/gp_po/gp_14_03.pdf
[iv] K. Guay calculation. Subtract Governor’s estimated need of 4,000 slots for universal preschool in the state’s poorest communities (from: http://www.ct.gov/opm/lib/opm/budget/2015midterm/budget/1.introduction_final.pdf) from K. Guay original estimate of 6,500 needed slots statewide (revised to 5,500 after additional 1,000 slots in FY 2015).
[v] P.A. 14-39, Section 84 (Section 85 defines “eligible children” as those children eligible for School Readiness programs and not all low-income children).
[vi] Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education. New York: Foundation for Child Development and Ann Arbor, MI: Society for Research in Child Development. Yoshikawa, H., Weiland, C., Brooks-Gunn, J., Burchinal, M., Espinosa, L., Gormley, W., Ludwig, J.O., Magnuson,
K.A., Phillips, D.A., & Zaslow, M.J. (2013). Retrieved from: http://fcd-us.org/site