Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance presents
“Children’s Champions” awards
“This year has been a particularly successful year for early childhood programs, with the passage of the CT Office of Early Childhood, planning for universal access for preschool, expanding School Readiness and more,” said Senator Danté Bartolomeo. “I am proud of the work we did this year to increase the access that Connecticut’s children have to a high-quality early education. We also passed a landmark bill that has already begun revolutionizing the way that Connecticut handles mental health treatment for children. Children’s health concerns will be identified early in their lives, ensuring they receive the treatment they need to grow and be healthy. Our children are the most important investment we can make in a strong and successful Connecticut. I thank the Early Childhood Alliance for the opportunity and to be recognized.”
“It is an honor to be recognized as a Children’s Champion by this organization,” Rep. Cathy Abercrombie said. “We have worked hard to keep children’s programs safe and strong even during these tough economic times. Thanks to our joint efforts we have seen promising outcomes that will have a long-term impact in their future and their lives.”
“Being named a Children’s Champion is a true pleasure because I believe they are the foundation of successful communities today and in the future,” Rep. Hilda Santiago stated. “I am delighted to support our children and their families in every possible way I can and look forward to our continued efforts in the legislature to strengthen programs and resources that are important for our youth.”
“For years, we’ve worked with legislators to make early childhood a priority issue, both at the Capitol and in the districts, and we’re seeing results of that work,” said Karen Rainville, CT Early Childhood Alliance Co-Chair and the Executive Director of CT Association for the Education of Young Children. “The Children’s Champions stepped up this year for their youngest constituents.”
Research has long established that children who participate in quality pre-K programs have improved performance and behavior in the classroom in later years, are more likely to read at grade level, have higher high school graduation rates, and are less likely to smoke or be involved in crime in later life. Studies show that every public dollar invested in high quality early care and education can return up to seven dollars in savings through reduction of remedial and special education, welfare, and criminal justice services.
Public Act 14-41, passed this year with the support of Senator Bartolomeo and the rest of Meriden’s legislative delegation, establishes three new major early childhood initiatives. First, the act creates the Office of Early Childhood (OEC), a consolidated agency responsible for coordinating and improving the various early childhood programs and components in the state to create a cohesive high-quality early childhood system. It also directs the OEC to lay out a roadmap for realization of universal pre-K for all Connecticut children.
Second, the legislation takes a major step toward the achievement of that goal by creating 1,020 new School Readiness Program “slots” to be awarded in Priority School Districts, Alliance Districts and Competitive School Districts across the state.
These “slots” provide per child funding to both public and private pre-K programming providers. The legislation increases the amount of these grants from $8,346 per year per child to $8,670 per year. Meriden will receive 35 new school readiness spaces thanks to this legislation, and Middletown will receive 6. Meriden and Middletown have also received funding from the Alliance School District program, providing students with increased classroom time and more opportunities to expand their education.
Third, the legislation creates the Connecticut Smart Start program, which will provide grants on a competitive basis to any town that can demonstrate an unmet need for preschool education with a priority focus on needy kids. The program will provide capital grants to school districts looking to create or expand preschool programs in public schools for construction or renovation of preschool classroom space, as well as operating funds for preschool programs in the amount of $5,000 per student up to $75,000 per classroom, with a maximum of $300,000 per district.
The Smart Start program will be administered by the Office of Early Childhood. Applicant towns must demonstrate an unmet need for preschool, as well as show how the municipality or district would provide preschool access to children who otherwise would be unable to enroll in a preschool program.
The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is a statewide membership and advocacy organization committed to improving outcomes in the areas of learning, health, safety and economic security, for children ages birth to eight. The organization’s goal is to ensure all children in Connecticut will enter kindergarten healthy, eager to learn, and ready for school success.