In a packed meeting space in Hartford’s El Centro Family Center, dozens of education advocates, neighborhood parents and their stroller-bound children stood shoulder to shoulder with Lt. Governor Wyman, Commissioner Pryor, Commissioner of Social Services Bremby and Office of Early Childhood Planning Director Myra Jones- Taylor to hear Governor Malloy announce the creation of the Office of Early Childhood (OEC). The room full of squealing infants fell silent as the Governor strode to make his announcement.
Building upon one of six pillars of education reform that he announced last year (“Promote early childhood education opportunities”), Governor Malloy announced that the OEC will provide a comprehensive, coordinated and collaborative set of early childhood programs under one roof. According to Lt. Governor Wyman, the OEC will serve to end the “bureaucratic mess” that families currently face as they seek to find services for their young children under five.
Governor Malloy announced that 71 existing staff from the following agencies and programs would become part of the OEC (along with four new OEC staff):
- State Department of Education (School Readiness, Child Day Care and state-funded Head Start);
- Department of Social Services (Care4Kids, Children’s Trust Fund);
- Board of Regents (Connecticut Charts-a-Course, which provides professional development opportunities for child care providers);
- Department of Developmental Services (Birth to Three); and
- Department of Public Health (licensing of child care homes and facilities)
Governor Malloy explained that he wants to implement this consolidation carefully to minimize service disruptions to the state’s highest need families. Therefore, full implementation of the OEC will take a couple of years. The changes will cost an additional $370,000 in the 2014 fiscal year and $280,000 in 2015. For Myra Jones-Taylor, who spearheaded the early childhood system planning work, the OEC will ensure that families of children zero-five will have:
- The information they need to choose an early childhood program right for them;
- Enhanced access to important programs (such as Birth to Three); and
- Enriched and higher quality early childhood programs from which to choose.
Commissioner Bremby proclaimed (quoting the venerable Frederick Douglass) that it is “easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Here at the CCER, we are proud to support the efforts of Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, and the state leaders and parents who have worked together to take this courageous step. Our original 2010 report called for establishing a single early childhood agency to include early intervention, early care, and early education functions. Yesterday’s announcement was yet another example of Governor Malloy’s continued commitment to improving public education for all students in Connecticut.