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Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge

$50 million in federal funding is available to improve early childhood education.

CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine (right) told other members of Connecticut’s Early Childhood Education Cabinet that educators recognize the critical importance of quality pre-K. At left is State Senator Andrea Stillman, co-chair of the legislature's Education Committee.

“I know we can do this.” That’s the message from Governor Dannel P. Malloy to members of Connecticut’s Early Childhood Education Cabinet working on a $50 million grant from the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to improve early childhood education. The grant is part of the Early Learning Challenge, a piece of the Race to the Top education-reform competition launched in 2009.

In addressing the panel at the Legislative Office Building today, the governor said it’s important to seek federal assistance to help close the state’s achievement gap and to make sure no child is denied an opportunity to age appropriate education because of their parents’ financial situation. And he said, “We know what must be done.”

“Urban teachers, rural teachers, suburban teachers—they all know what it’s going to take to improve the quality of the product as it comes to our formalized kindergarten through grade 12 program,” said Malloy. “Let’s go after this grant, and design programs to make sure we get it right in Connecticut, and we get it right sooner than later.”

CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine listened to Governor Malloy address the Early Childhood Education Cabinet.

The Governor said, “Anytime we deny some group of children the ability to meet their maximum—to be as good a student, as good a citizen, as good a worker as they possibly can be, in this very competitive economic environment—we are failing that child.”

CEA Executive director Mary Loftus Levine, a member of the cabinet, says educators recognize the critical importance of quality pre-K to the development of Connecticut’s youngest children.

“We need to focus on literacy skills, high-quality instruction and programs, and having highly qualified and certified teachers for our youngest children. Time is not a renewable resource for these children, so the time to act is now,” said Levine.

To win the grants, states are required to submit applications showing evidence of their commitment to a series of reforms, including the coordination and improvement of multiple early childhood programs designed for children from birth through age five.

Rep. Andy Fleischman, co-chair of the legislature’s Education Committee, said legislation (SB 1103) enacted last spring to create a coordinated system of early childhood care laid the foundation that the group is aiming to build upon.

The cabinet’s next meeting is Sept. 22. Applications are due October 19, and winners will be announced before December 31.

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  1. Daycare and preschool both have a role to play in the education of children. CEA has advocated for early childhood program providers to be as highly credentialed as are public school teachers who teach in preschool programs that are part of a comprehensive school system.

    In public school preschools, teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, which, in CT, includes the education of special needs children. While NAEYC standards are moving in the direction of higher educational standards for early childhood education providers, and the state of CT is also moving to strengthen the preparation of early childhood educators in state-funded programs, they haven’t yet reached the standard that CEA would like to see.

    We would like to see all providers of early childhood education who work directly with children have the same level of education, so that all children will be assured of having the same level of high-quality preschool.

    September 12, 2011
  2. Mary E. Burnham #

    I am sure it was not Ms Levine’s intent, but when she implied that “Day Care” was not quality early education, she insulted many program directors and teachers. In this day and age, Day Care and/or Child Care are some of the best early childhood programs in the State of CT. For example, all State funded programs must be accredtited by NAEYC. Many early childhood programs in the public schools do not meet this standard and are not even licenced by the DPH.

    September 8, 2011

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