State Senate approves bill establishing Office of Early Childhood and advancing preschool expansion

On Friday, a bill designed to expand preschool access and move our state toward a unified, comprehensive early childhood system took a major step forward when the Senate voted to pass the proposal in a bipartisan vote (33-2).

“Today, with this bill, Connecticut is on a path to build a system of early care and education that combines the strengths of high-quality home visiting, family child care, community-based programs and school-based programs,” said State Senator Beth Bye in a statement released following the vote.

Several key elements of S.B. 25, the bill passed by the Senate:

  • The bill would formally and permanently establish Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood. If you’re a follower of this blog, you’ve tracked the progress of this important legislation over the past year and a half. If the House votes to approve this proposal, the Office—which currently exists only by Executive Order—will be established by statute. The Office will be charged with overseeing the creation of a unified system of early care and education for children birth to age 8 and empowered as a permanent advocate for Connecticut’s children and families.
  • The proposal includes the Smart Start initiative, which was proposed by several Democratic legislators. Smart Start would offer grants to towns with demonstrated unmet need to create or expand their public school preschool programs. Ten million dollars in funding for these seats would become available annually beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.
  • In addition, the package approved by the Senate raises rates for early care and education subsidies, in keeping with the Governor Dannel Malloy’s budget recommendations. S.B. 25 is intended to complement Governor Malloy’s proposal to award new School Readiness slots to Priority School Districts, Alliance Districts and Competitive School Districts. Over five years, the Governor’s proposal would add 4,010 seats in these high-need districts (the first 1,020 seats will open in the coming year).

To learn more about the package the Senate has just approved, you can read reports on the bill in the CT Mirror and the CT Post on the bill or read press releases from State Senate President Don Williams and State Senator Beth Bye.

Here at All Our Kin, we’re excited that the Senate has voted to invest significantly in our state’s young children, both by creating the Office of Early Childhood and moving toward preschool expansion. It is essential for Connecticut to develop an inclusive and comprehensive system that serves young children across settings, including family child care, and we believe that the Office of Early Childhood is uniquely well situated to create such a system. This proposal now awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.

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