Five early childhood agencies to become one [Norwalk Citizen]

February 5, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Norwalk Hour

By Linda Conner Lambeck

HARTFORD — Cuts may be coming in other areas of state government, but not early childhood education.

On Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the creation of the Office of Early Childhood, which will bring together 71 state employees who work in early childhood roles in five separate agencies.

The move will also create four new positions — an executive director and three staff members. The estimated cost in the next fiscal year is $370,000.

“We are transforming how we address early childhood care and development in Connecticut,” Malloy said in a prepared statement.

“Engaging in a comprehensive approach for the delivery of services to children and their parents means better, more focused programming, and is an important addition to the education reforms that are already under way.”

The new office will be comprised of offices within the state departments of education, social services, public health, developmental services and Board of Regents as well as the Children’s Trust Fund.

Myra Jones Taylor, director of the Office of Early Childhood Planning, said the new structure will allow for more coordination and a unified vision for children from birth to 5 years old, and their parents.

Maggie Adair, executive director of the CT Early Childhood Alliance, a statewide advocacy group, said the plan is similar to a Massachusetts model and is a step in the right direction.

“This way, legislators hear one voice,” Adair said. “This will get rid of duplication of effort.”

The new office will be phased in over two years and is part of Malloy’s legislative package, which will be unveiled Wednesday.

In the current fiscal year, the state spent $9.8 million on early childhood initiatives, including the creation of 1,000 new preschool spots. Of those spots, 130 were in Bridgeport. Another $3 million was spent to begin a child care rating system.

State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, co-chairman of the legislature’s education committee, said the plan makes perfect sense.

State Rep. Auden Grogins, D-Bridgeport, said even with a state budget deficit, education remains a top priority.

“I think children in the state are worth investing in, and having a single department and director will help coordinate and streamline the process,” Grogins said.

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said she is supportive of the effort because it is an “office” not an agency.

It will also offer a comprehensive approach to child care services offered by the state that might lead to efficiencies in the long run, she said.