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Senate Approves Preschool Package

by Christine Stuart | Apr 25, 2014 7:24pm
(10) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, State Budget, State Capitol

Christine Stuart photo

Sen. Beth Bye, Sen. President Donald Williams, and Sen. Andrea Stillman

The Senate approved legislation Friday that moves the state toward universal preschool and establishes the Office of Early Childhood.

The bill, which passed 33-2, will allow cities and towns to use $10 million in bonding to renovate classrooms and make them age appropriate. It also uses $10 million in Tobacco Settlement Funds starting on July 1, 2015 to hire teachers to manage those classrooms. The funding for the program would be authorized for five years.

Democratic lawmakers pitched the initiative they’re calling “Smart Start” on April 9 after draft budget proposals had been circulated, but Sen. President Donald Williams argued that it’s not a budget-busting idea because it uses Tobacco Settlement Funds and repurposes them.

The money in the Tobacco Settlement Fund is supposed to be used on smoking cessation programs to help residents quit smoking.

The program provides operating funds in the amount of $5,000 per student up to $75,000 per classroom with a maximum of $300,000 per district. It also authorizes $75,000 per classroom in capital grants.

The bill the Senate voted on Friday also includes the 4,000 new preschool slots proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Those slots would go to the neediest children, in some of the poorest school districts in the state. It provides $11.5 million for slots and $2.3 million in startup costs for districts that need to renovate classroom space to accommodate preschoolers.

Currently, there are 16,420 children ages three and four attending preschool programs in Connecticut public schools. There are another 10,000 children receiving services through the School Readiness program, and 11,400 are receiving early childhood services outside the public school system.

In total, there are about 84,000 children in that age group in Connecticut, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. In Connecticut, only 8 percent of 3-year-olds and 13 percent of the 4-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded preschool programs.

Williams said the “Smart Start” program would be voluntary so that all cities and towns would be eligible, but it would not be mandated so it wouldn’t impact the bottom line of local budgets.

“We estimate there would be another 4,000 to 5,000 students served by the program,” Williams said. That’s in addition to the 1,020 new slots that Malloy’s budget proposal creates in 2015.

“This is one program we know closes the achievement gap,” Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said.

She said the research on this issue is undeniable and even though they won’t be able to reach every child with this initiative it’s a good start.

The bill also creates the Office of Early Childhood, which would manage the money for these programs. The office was created through an executive order last year because the legislature failed to pass a bill creating it on the final night of the session. Malloy signed an executive order as a temporary measure.

Despite a few Republican amendments the proposal eventually won bipartisan support.

Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, said the goal was laudable but the ideas in the bill were never presented together for a public hearing. He said it seems to be coming out of the blue, but he eventually voted for the proposal.

Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said before the state commits to more borrowing it should fund the programs currently on the books. He proposed an amendment to fully fund the Education Cost Sharing formula which is the state funding that goes to every school district in the state. That amendment and four others were defeated.

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said there is evidence that access to early childhood education is a good investment.

“It’s certainly a good investment,” Boucher said. “The efforts in this area should have good bipartisan support.”

The $20 million that is part of the “Smart Start” program would go only to public schools. The classroom size would be limited to 16 students and all teachers would need to be certified, Williams said.

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(10) Comments

posted by: art vandelay | April 25, 2014  8:01pm

art vandelay

Here’s how I see it.  The LEFT now has total control of your child from cradle to grave.
What’s more appalling is that they are using tobacco funds to temporally fund it.  What on God’s earth does tobacco education have anything to do with educating pre-schoolers?  NOTHING!.  Once these funds run dry local taxpayers will have to foot the bill through higher property taxes. Remember state programs or mandates NEVER sunset.  Pre-school teachers will be incorporated into CEA union wage scales exactly like normal teachers.  Property taxes will have to increase in order to pay for the pre-school teachers.  Like any liberal progressive programs, the ideas are noble, but they have no clue as to how they must be executed.  I’m surprised (but not) that respected Republicans like Senator McLachlan signed onto this.

posted by: EdLeadershipcrisis | April 25, 2014  10:28pm

Is this the same Beth Bye and Andrea Stillman that are intent on reinforcing legislation to force parents of Prekindergarten students in magnet schools to pay a $3800 tuition starting next year??  Yea, sure - what champions for early childhood? or rather hypocrites!!  Any and all parents of magnet school prekindergarteners next school year should be calling their legislators to stop them and their education and appropriations committees from reneging on the meaning of public magnet schools by clobbering parents with tuition, long after their children were enrolled. Disgusting, just like the non-transparent CT DoE who neglected to tell applicants to the spring lottery that the $3800 tuition was awaiting lottery winners in PK.  Are there any honest legislators who will stop the dishonesty around early childhood programming in magnet schools in the form of this surprise tuition next school year?

posted by: Noteworthy | April 25, 2014  10:55pm

How much of the Tobacco Settlement money has been used for smoking cessation? Seriously. The whole concept behind the settlement is that taxpayers should be reimbursed for higher medical costs - and in theory, the money spent to drive down smoking so that we don’t continue to bear those higher costs. Legislators have been spending the settlement money on a whole lot of Christmas - and people are still getting sick and dying.

posted by: Bethy | April 26, 2014  2:32am

Bethy

i am very pleased that this bill passed. i enjoyed watching the entire debate. this is great bipart work. thank you for thinking of the children of this great state.

posted by: justsayin | April 26, 2014  6:40am

Mrs. Bye I would like to see that data. Not the old data that has been discredited. This sounds good and is not negative but it certainly does not and will not close the gap. Also this is not “universal” it is targeted and voluntary. Where is Blumenthal, scrarming about his tobacco money, isn’t already below the curve on this spending. Oh yeah we need the tobacco tax to support the budget. Now this makes sense, for the children right?

posted by: art vandelay | April 26, 2014  6:48am

art vandelay

Like anything else, once the legislature gets their hands on money from dedicated funds, they can do as they please.  It happened with the lottery dedicated to education, the (temporary)  income tax to pay off a small $40,000,000.00 deficit, and gas tax to fund roads and bridges.  Legislators are extremely creative in ways to pick taxpayers pockets.

posted by: dano860 | April 26, 2014  7:12am

Create another bogus agency that will never go away, rob another fund that was intended for another purpose, espouse claims that are yet to be proven (Beth Bye statement) and as Art said, it will eventually dump the costs onto the taxpayer, once again!
There is no desire to reduce or eliminate a revenue stream like smoking or drinking but they will pander to those that like full day baby sitting so they can go smoke and drink.
There are methods available for cities and towns to install these programs where needed if the parents get involved and go after them.
This is just another vote dredging gimmick.

posted by: Michele | April 26, 2014  12:25pm

“Your children belong to the community!” declared Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC. What she meant was that the children belong to the State. In breaking through the misguided notion that children belong to their parents, Connecticut has declared that it, the State, knows what is best for OUR children. Well, they have believed that for as long as I have lived here, but this seals the deal. From DCF to hospitals and doctors asking kids if they feel “safe” at home, if they have guns in their homes (yes, this question is now on a patient information form), the State is in charge of your children, not you. Welcome to the collective, comrades.

posted by: Bluecoat | April 26, 2014  2:38pm

So first the governor conspired with the Unions and destroyed the private market pre-school business, and now He is guaranteeing them employment. Can someone ask the legislators what research convinced them that this is a great idea?
From what I see out there is no consensus on this topic of government pre-school. Besides this was partly done to help collect more student level data, from pre-school to grad school on our kids, without parental notification and/or written permission. This is what he P-20 Department of data collection is all about, and what fuels the testing consortia.
And Michele is right,
but you forgot to mention that the Brits just labeled on a US map that CT is “white privileged”,
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/04/25/massachusetts-home-fake-irish-people-say-brits/VbNdHZKcU2VFjaxRXYoAQO/story.html

These kind of decisions are only made from the “Vision of the Anointed”, a term coined by Thomas Sowell in the mid 90’s.
Without sourcing any information on the topic, both Democrats and Republicans on the so called Education Committee say with conviction that these programs work. Proof anyone?

posted by: dano860 | April 27, 2014  9:21am

Michele, that statement coming from the Marist/Socialist News Broadcasting Company shouldn’t surprise anyone. What surprises me is that ANYONE watches it!
Donnie has a poor history for bringing education money to his constituents in Eastern Ct so it brings up a host of questions as to why he is doing this on his way out.? It would appear to be that this is nothing more than voter security for Dannel boy.