HARTFORD – Connecticut’s Congressional delegation and Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that Connecticut has been awarded nearly $12.5 million in discretionary federal funding to expand high-quality preschool. The funding was awarded by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services through a competitive grant process and was announced today by Secretary Burwell of the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Duncan of the Department of Education.
“My kids are 3 and 6 years old, so right now, my family is particularly appreciative of everything early childhood education does to improve a kid’s well-being” said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “Countless studies have shown that these early years are critical for a kid’s development and success in the long run, so I’m thrilled that Connecticut will now be able to expand the high-quality preschool programs that all families should have access to. I’d like to thank the Department of Education for working so closely with us to secure this funding and for investing in the educational success of kids across Connecticut.”
“Early childhood education, and the dedicated teachers who serve in those classrooms, enrich the lives of our youngest citizens and their families,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). “The investment literally pays of over a lifetime and is a cornerstone of our efforts to close the achievement gap, combat poverty and provide all kids with opportunities to thrive. Low-income children in Derby, East Haven, Hamden, Naugatuck and Seymour should have the same opportunities as their peers and this grant is one step towards ensuring that happens.”
“Access to high-quality preschool is one of the most important foundations for lifelong success, and Connecticut has long been a leader in this area,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “Today’s substantial federal award will give 428 additional children in underserved communities the early start they need to enter kindergarten ready to learn and thrive.”
“Every child deserves a high-quality education. I applaud Governor Malloy for his tireless commitment to early childhood education and know this grant will further enhance the efforts he has already set in motion,” said Congressman John B. Larson (D-Conn.). “Providing our children access to high-quality education at an early age should be a top priority for the nation. I am proud to see Connecticut leading the way in achieving the goal of accessible early education for every child and I look forward to seeing the impact of this grant in our communities.”
“Access to quality early childhood education is a proven strategy to help children succeed in school from the day they enter kindergarten until the day they graduate high school,” said Congressman Joe Courtney (D-Conn.). “This federal funding will expand on the progress already happening in Connecticut to increase early childhood education, and as a member of the House Education Committee, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that every child has the opportunity to get a great education.”
“Early childhood education programs are some of the smartest investments we can make as a nation to help children succeed and improve our communities,” said Congressman Jim Himes (D-Conn.). “I was proud to join the state and the city of Bridgeport in pushing for this grant, which will boost the number of pre-school spots for low and middle-income children in Bridgeport. I will keep urging Congress to pass legislation I've introduced - modeled on successful efforts in Bridgeport – to expand and improve early education across the country.”
“As a mother of three children, I know how important access to quality education is for our children, especially during their early, formative years,” said Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.). “Under the leadership of Governor Malloy, Connecticut has significantly expanded preschool opportunities for families. I want to thank Secretary Burwell and Secretary Duncan for their meaningful investment in the future of Connecticut children, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to ensure that every family has access to high-quality, affordable early childhood education.”
“We have a fundamental responsibility to provide an opportunity for all children to succeed, and one of the best ways to do that is to make sure they have access to a high-quality early learning experience,” said Governor Malloy. “I commend President Obama, Secretary Burwell and Secretary Duncan for their leadership in this effort, and I thank them for their confidence in Connecticut in making this award. These federal funds will allow us to expand high-quality preschool to serve over 400 additional children and improve the quality of preschool for nearly 300 more children in low-income families, giving them the necessary foundation to succeed in school and life. I’d like to thank the Office of Early Childhood and all of our community partners who worked hard on this application and are helping us transform how we address early childhood education in Connecticut.”
“Today is a great day for Connecticut children,” said Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman. “This federal award signifies Connecticut’s commitment to better serve our youngest children. Hundreds of additional children across our state will now have a shot at the early start they need to be successful in school and life. We are grateful to the Obama Administration, Secretary Burwell and Secretary Duncan for recognizing our efforts to increase access to high-quality early educational opportunities and for their support of Connecticut children.”
Connecticut’s application aligns with the state’s strong existing preschool infrastructure to expand access to high-quality state-funded preschool programs for 428 children and to improve the quality of state-funded preschool programs for another 284 children, for a total of 712 four-year-olds who are at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line in 14 high-need communities. The 14 communities are Bridgeport, Derby, East Haven, Griswold, Groton, Hamden, Hebron, Killingly, Manchester, Naugatuck, Seymour, Torrington, Vernon, and Wolcott.
“This opportunity to use federal funding to expand high-quality preschool in Connecticut comes at a time when we are making great strides toward achieving universal access to preschool for our state’s young children,” stated Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, Commissioner for the Office of Early Childhood. “This grant will bring us yet another step closer to making high-quality preschool available for all of our children and closer to closing the achievement gap.”
The 14 communities participating in the expansion will have high-quality preschool programs which:
• offer comprehensive services to children and families;
• offer teacher compensation equal to K-12 teachers;
• deepen family engagement practices at the local level;
• forge a seamless birth-through-third-grade continuum at the local level; and
• have an enhanced professional development system offering more targeted and individualized coaching, mentoring and consultation designed to meet the unique needs of programs and teachers within the programs.
Governor Malloy added, “I also thank our entire Congressional Delegation, particularly Congresswoman DeLauro, who is the senior Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for both departments and who secured funding for this program in last year’s omnibus appropriations act.”
Thirteen out of 27 states that applied for competitive grants to expand high-quality preschool programs were awarded over $170 million in federal funding. In addition to Connecticut, the states that received funding are Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.
In June, Governor Malloy announced the allocation of an additional 1,020 additional School Readiness opportunities for low-income children in 46 towns and cities throughout Connecticut. The increase is part of a five-year plan to expand state-funded preschool to serve a total of 4,010 more low-income children by 2019. In 2012, Governor Malloy approved a similar expansion of 1,000 School Readiness opportunities for children throughout the state.
In addition, Public Act 14-41 established the Connecticut Smart Start Program which is intended to expand preschool opportunities for low-income children in public schools. Connecticut Smart Start will provide grants in FY15 for the renovation of existing public school classrooms to accommodate public preschool programs. Proposals for Smart Start funding are due from local and regional boards of education on December 19.