Gov. Malloy pushes universal pre-K to legislators

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Feb. 10, 2014

Telling state legislators that no child should miss the opportunity for pre-Kindergarten classes, Gov. Dannel Malloy asked them for help in creating 1,020 early childhood opportunities next year and expanding that to 4,000 by 2018.

“Two to three years is a long time in the life of a child,” said state Sen. Donald Williams, Jr., who said the call to action is necessary. “Universal pre-K is important for several reasons,” he said. “It’s the best way to increase achievement across the board.” Pre-K classes prepare children to be school-ready, lead to higher high school graduation rates, and is associated with declines in grade repetition, the need for special education and the incidences of crime and pregnancy.

Malloy is proposing that grants and increased reimbursements be offered to towns, child care centers and programs to implement these changes.

Malloy might want to follow the lead of Plainfield Superintendent Kenneth DiPietro, who has established a two-year pre-K and K program. “Full-day K wasn’t going to happen in Plainfield,” he said. “I didn’t have $500,000.” The Plainfield model gives children 14 years of education, and allows teachers to prepare curriculum for kindergarten long before they get there.

How does one of the poorest communities in the state come up with a way to allow children to attend preschool? “What we do, we do out of necessity,” DiPietro said. “We don’t have lots of space, so we have to do what it takes to give our kids the same chance as anyone else.”

“I have 40 years experience,” DiPietro said. “I have all kinds of models that work.”

“Plainfield has done some innovative things,” Williams said. “We’re always interested when people can do innovative things and stretch the dollar. That’s what we need to do across the state.”

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