By Kathy Megan

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hit the road Friday campaigning for his proposal to ensure that every Connecticut child has the chance to go to pre-school.

“Let’s commit Connecticut to achieving universal pre-kindergarten,” Malloy said during a stop at the Helen Street School in Hamden. “This plan is about moving to universal access to early childhood opportunities for all children, regardless of income.  We’re not going to get there overnight, which is why I am calling for a phase-in plan that will expand to 4,000 new opportunities by 2019.”

The state estimates that there are about 4,010 three and four year olds who do not have pre-school, though others have higher estimates. Connecticut Council for Education Reform puts the number at about 6,500.

In addition to increasing opportunities for preschool, the plan will also increase reimbursement rates for state-funded Child Day Care Centers and School Readiness programs and provide funding for start-up grants for classrooms.

Myra Jones-Taylor, executive director for the Office of Early Childhood, said the Malloy’s proposal is a “win-win, … Not only does the plan increase access to pre-K for our most vulnerable children, but it also results in a higher quality experience for our children by increasing rates for providers.”

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, one of the legislative leaders who accompanied Malloy said, “Pre-K plays an important role in ensuring educational opportunity and shouldn’t only be available for those who can afford it.”

The proposal calls on the Office of Early Childhood to develop a plan to give  every child the chance to go to pre-school by Jan. 1, 2015.  The slots for the additional 1,020 children won’t be available until the fall of 2015.

Malloy’s proposed budget also includes money for a quality rating and improvement system for child care providers and for improvements to the state’s child care licensing system. These steps may help to address complaints from parents who say they have no way to judge which pre-school programs are high quality.

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