Expansion of 4K Programs in Economically Disadvantaged Counties
Pilot program would extend 4K to full day
On Tuesday, February 6th, I testified before the Senate Committee on Education in support of a bill I co-authored, Senate Bill 663, which would allow the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to award grants for the expansion of four-year-old kindergarten programs in up to 3 economically disadvantaged counties. In these counties, the intention is to expand supported 4k programs into full day programs.
In today’s world, early educational success is critical for workforce and academic readiness. The evidence supporting early childhood education is overwhelming. For many students, they receive a measurable leg-up beginning traditional K-12 education after being enrolled in 4k. This is especially true in reading achievement. Further, children who are behind when they start five-year-old kindergarten not only have a difficult time “catching up” and “keeping up” with their peers, their slow development may also hinder the development of other children in their class.
I understand that not everyone agrees that this model will work. For those reasons, we limit the opportunities to fund this program to just three counties with historically high unemployment. The bill does not authorize new money be allocated for this purpose or require that DCF spend money on these programs. Rather, the bill allows DCF to fund these programs if DCF has funds available for this purpose.
We know that early childhood education and a healthy learning environment is one of the keys to success in life. As our workforce needs evolve over the coming years, one thing is certain – we need every child to be ready to either work or continue their education when they leave high school. This pilot program may hold the key to unlocking their success.