HEADLINES

Nine CT Towns Awarded Funding to Create 146 New Preschool Slots

 

Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that nearly $1.6 million in state funding is being awarded to nine communities across Connecticut that will expand the availability of high-quality preschool to 146 additional children.

The funding comes as part of the latest round of the state’s Smart Start initiative – a program Governor Malloy signed into law in 2014 that is designed to expand access to pre-K in public schools, particularly among low-income children.  This year – the third of the ten-year initiative – a total of approximately $714,000 for capital improvements will be allocated, in addition to $805,000 for operational expenses from the Tobacco Settlement fund.

“We must ensure that children are equipped with the tools they need to succeed in life – regardless of income or zip code,” Governor Malloy said.  “Expanding the availability of preschool options in our state will prepare them for college and careers in a global, 21st century economy.”

“Early education can greatly improve student success,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said.  “These investments strengthen our preschool system, create opportunity for our young people, and help build the education pipeline that contributes to Connecticut’s improving test scores and rising graduation rates.”

Seven new communities will receive Smart Start funding this year, including Andover, Cheshire, North Branford, Plymouth, Somers, Thomaston, and East Hampton.  Cromwell and Enfield are receiving expansion grants in this third round of funding.

During the first two years of the Smart Start initiative, grants were awarded to Ansonia, Bridgeport, Clinton, Coventry, Cromwell, Derby, East Hartford, East Haven, Enfield, Killingly, New London, Norwich, Plainfield, Plainville, Stamford, Wallingford, West Hartford and Windsor, serving a total of 521 children in 38 classrooms.

With this third round of grant awards, Smart Start will serve 667 children in 48 classrooms across the state.

Funding for the capital improvement grants are expected to be approved at an upcoming meeting of the State Bond Commission with funding anticipated to be available this spring.  Operational expenses for classrooms beginning in September will be available in July.

“We are pleased that we are providing funding to communities that have not received state financial support for pre-K in the past and we are excited to collaborate with these new partners,” said Linda Goodman, Acting Commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood, which administers the Smart Start program.  “By partnering with our local school districts, we will not only be able to expand access to preschool, but also build high-quality pre-K to Third Grade continuum, improving educational outcomes for our children.”

“Smart Start was created with the goal of reaching families that may not have had these pre-K opportunities through other state and federally funded programs,” said State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), who was an advocate of the original Smart Start legislation.  “Through Smart Start, school districts are choosing to invest in preschool, which provides young children with a strong foundation entering kindergarten.”

In order to be eligible for Smart Start funding, districts need to demonstrate an unmet need for preschool in their communities.  In addition, Smart Start preschool classrooms must provide high-quality early education including a minimum of school-day and school-year programming; classroom sizes do not exceed 18 children; priority enrollment given to children from low-income families, children with special needs and children who are dual language learners.  In addition, the program must be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), be approved by the federal Head Start program, have documentation that they are in the process of obtaining accreditation from NAEYC, or have a plan to ensure that the program will be accredited within three years of receiving funding through Smart Start.

Up to $100 million in state bonding for capital improvements and up to $90 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund will be available over a ten-year period for the program.

Funds announced today are as follows:

 

Classrooms

Children

Operations Funding (Tobacco Settlement Fund)

Capital Improvement Funding

(State Bond Funds)

Andover

1

13

$65,000

$75,000

Cheshire

2

30

$150,000

$150,000

Cromwell

1

15

$75,000

$75,000

Enfield

1

13

$65,000

$75,000

North Branford

1

15

$75,000

$65,689

Plymouth

1

15

$75,000

$75,000

Somers

1

15

$75,000

$48,000

Thomaston

1

15

$75,000

$75,000

East Hampton

1

15

$75,000

$75,000

Total

10

146

$730,000

$713,689

For more information about Smart Start, please visit the Office of Early Childhood website at www.ct.gov/oec/smartstart.

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