Early Childhood Education – A Good Investment

April 28, 2014

Hartford, CT –State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) ranking member of the Education Committee supports Early Childhood Education bills that passed the state senate this week.

“These bills are necessary if we are to close the achievement gap in Connecticut,”said Sen. Boucher.

The first education bill, establishes the Office of Early Childhood as its own stand alone office responsible for the following major programs as of July 1, 2014:

  • school readiness;
  • the Children’s Trust Fund;
  • Connecticut Charts-a-Course;
  • state and federally funded child day care subsidies;
  • child day care services management, evaluation, and professional development; and
  • child day care facilities licensing and inspection.

The second bill creates a competitive school grant program for local and regional boards of education. The grant program entitled, Connecticut Smart Start program would provide capital and operational expenses for establishing or expanding pre-k slots.

“Young children are like sponges. Brain research shows that children from birth to age 5 learn at the fastest pace in their development, gaining nearly 80 % of their knowledge during that time,” remarked Senator Boucher. “In fact, the human brain begins to form just three weeks after conception. The brain, as it is developing, stores memories, information and skills. Although our brain develops throughout our lives, it is most “plastic” or impressionable at the earliest stage. That is when it is more open to learning and influences, both good and bad. When children do not have access to enriching learning experiences, they lose a great deal of time and fall behind their peers.

“The Perry School Experiment randomly assigned half of 123 low income children in preschool and the other half were unassigned. After following them over 40 years, it was found that those exposed to preschool were more likely to graduate from high school, stay married and less likely to be arrested or dependent on a social welfare program. They also seemed to exhibit traits highly valued by employers such as perseverance, dependability and consistency.

“According to Flavio Cunha at the University of Pennsylvania and James Heckman, Nobel Laureate at the University of Chicago who have studied the economic value of public investments in preschool say it is society’s most cost effect program. Economists calculate that for every dollar invested, the taxpayer reaps 8-9 dollars in return,” added Boucher.

The second bill also provides programs up to $75,000 per classroom for capital expenses. For a period of five years, programs may receive grants for operational expenses not to exceed $5000 per student, $75,000 per classroom, or $300,000 per town. After 5 years, the program may submit an application for renewal.

Eligibility – local and regional boards of education that:

  • Demonstrate a need for establishing or expanding pre-k slots
  • Submit a plan, including the amount of local contribution
  • Submit a letter of support from the regional school readiness council

Requirements – approved programs:

  • Must include a teacher with an early childhood endorsement
  • Maintain proper student/teacher ratios
  • Obtain accreditation within 3 years

The bills must still be passed by the House of Representatives before the end of the legislative session on May 7th.