State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, led the passage of two bills on Thursday that will significantly impact the early childhood education system in Connecticut.
According to a news release, Senate Bill 1103 “creates a coordinated system of early childhood education and care policies and practices, including prenatal care and care for children from birth to eight years old in order to ensure their optimal health, safety and learning.”
Senate Bill 927 also substantially affects Connecticut’s early childhood education system by markedly increasing the educational requirements for teachers in state-funded programs.
“These two bills are about creating a high-quality, coordinated early childhood system in Connecticut. They ensure better access for families and quality care for children,” Bye said in the release. “I’ve been involved in early childhood education my entire adult life. It is something I am passionate about, and I have experience as a parent and working in the field. We can make giant steps in Connecticut toward educational equality if all children have access to a comprehensive, quality early childhood education, and that’s exactly what this legislation does.”
According to the release, Gov. Dannel Malloy applauded Bye’s efforts. “So much of the table is already set by the time a child reaches kindergarten,” Gov. Malloy said in the release. “What we’re doing here is setting smart, strategic policies to provide equality of opportunity for education, specifically recognizing that early childhood education programs are among the measures that are effective in ensuring that children are ready to learn, particularly for those who may be at risk.”
Additional funding for the “Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge” will soon become available for states “that create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems with better coordination and assessment mechanisms, clearer learning standards, and meaningful workforce development and family engagement initiatives,” according to the release.
Bye said in the release that, “Senate Bill 1103 puts Connecticut in a very strong position to apply for and compete for some of this half-billion dollars in Early Childhood Challenge funding. We will be on the path toward just the type of quality, comprehensive early childhood education system that these federal dollars are targeting.”
The specific requirements of Senate Bill 1103 include creation of an 18-member Early Childhood Education Cabinet, and appointment of a planning director to develop a coordinated system of early childhood care and education. According to the release, the planning director must be appointed by July 15, 2011, and that appointment will be made using available appropriations or funded by “donations from private sources or federal funds.”
According to the release, that plan should specifically seek to:
- reduce the academic achievement gap;
- increase participation in early childhood education programs;
- increase parent engagement, family literacy and parenting skills;
- increase oral language development;
- increase social competence;
- decrease special education placements; and
- support parents and guardians of young children to find employment and to remain employed and encourage such parents and guardians to attend work training programs.
Senate Bill 927 substantially increases the educational requirements for teachers in any state-funded preschool program, requiring that, “by July 1, 2015, 50 percent of such staff must have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, childhood development or a related field, or they must have a teaching certificate with an endorsement in early childhood or special education. By July 1, 2020, all such staff must have one of those advanced degrees.”
According to the release, Senate Bill 927 will also permit the use of up to $500,000 in unexpended school readiness funds by the state commissioner each year “to help such staff members meet the qualification requirements through tuition assistance, if they have already applied for all available state and federal scholarships and grants and if they attend an in-state school.”