Yesterday, at Helen Street School in Hamden, Governor Dannel Malloy signed bills formally establishing the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood and expanding preschool opportunities throughout the state. The two bills signed were Public Act 14-39 and Public Act 14-41.
At the signing event, Governor Malloy, state legislators, and local officials testified to the long-term value of enriching, nourishing, high quality early childhood programs for our youngest learners. “The important moment of intervention is the early childhood years,” State Senator Martin Looney stated. “This comprehensive investment in early education will do more than anything else to conquer the achievement gap that has plagued us for so long.” “We must strive to equip [students] with the knowledge, skills and tools they will need from day one,” said Governor Malloy.
The Office of Early Childhood, led by Commissioner Myra Jones-Taylor, will be tasked with coordinating and improving our state’s programs and services related to early childhood, ranging from child care program licensing to home visitation. This legislation represents significant progress toward a vision that advocates, parents, child care providers, and policymakers have long embraced: a unified, cohesive early childhood system that prepares all of Connecticut’s children for success in school and in life.
Also included in the new legislation are two measures that will expand preschool access for three- and four-year olds: a 1,020 slot increase in the state’s subsidized School Readiness Program beginning in FY 15, with further expansion to follow, and Connecticut Smart Start, which will provide grants to expand preschool in public schools districts with unmet preschool need. Public Act 14-39 also included recognition of dyslexia as a Primary Specific Learning Disability, a step which will support evidence-based interventions for Connecticut students with dyslexia. State Senator Beth Bye, a committed supporter of early childhood education, said that this legislation is “truly a turning point.”
At the bill signing yesterday, Commissioner Jones-Taylor stated that this legislation cements Connecticut’s reputation as a national leader in early childhood. “We in Connecticut are true visionaries,” said Jones-Taylor, after describing a long line of Connecticut-grown early childhood innovations including Child First, Help Me Grow, and Head Start.
Jones-Taylor took a moment to acknowledge her mother, who took three buses to get Jones-Taylor to a high-quality early childhood program. The new Commissioner pledged to use the Office to provide mothers, fathers, and caregivers with the tools to support children in achieving their dreams. “We will continue to build on the promise of this Office,” she stated.
As an organization that serves and supports family child care providers, who are often under-resourced and under-equipped for their work with vulnerable young children, All Our Kin sees high quality early education as an issue of educational equity. “Our children are our most precious resource,” said All Our Kin’s Executive Director, Jessica Sager. “We must commit ourselves to ensuring that every child, regardless of race or zip code, has access to the nurturing, high quality early learning experiences that are so crucial for later success. The creation of the new Office of Early Childhood is a crucial step toward that vision.”
We have supported the Office of Early Childhood since its earliest planning stages, because we believe that the Office will be in a position to build an inclusive system that truly serves all children in all settings, including family child care, and create more powerful supports for our state’s youngest children and their parents. You can learn more about our support for the Office by reading our Op-Ed in the CT Mirror. We celebrate the legislation signed into law yesterday and applaud the Governor and state legislators for their leadership and commitment to giving every child a strong start in life.