New Office Would Merge Programs From Five State Agencies
By KATHLEEN MEGAN
February 04, 2013
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Monday proposed a new state agency – the Office of Early Childhood -- combining programs now located in five different state agencies, but adding $370,000 in new state spending.
Malloy said the new state agency would "fundamentally transform how we address early childhood" including issues ranging "from school readiness to teacher training. We are proposing a system that will put these programs and services in one place."
Malloy said the new office would build on the education reform he led last year that included the state's investment of $9.8 million in early childhood initiatives, including the creation of 1,000 new slots in early childhood programs and $3 million for a tiered quality rating system for early childhood programs.
Last year's steps, Malloy said, were "a good beginning, but only a beginning and we needed to do more."
Advocates for change in education had expressed concern when that they might see a rollback of last year's education reforms, particularly when the legislature approved a budget-balancing package of rescissions in December that included cutbacks in funding for the current fiscal year in several key reform programs.
But in the run-up to the release of his budget package Wednesday, Malloy has shown his determination to maintain his commitment to last year's reforms with a proposal announced last week to increase the budget to turn around low-performing schools by $14.1 million over the next two years and with his proposal on early childhood programs.
Jennifer Alexander, acting chief executive officer for ConnCAN, an education reform group, released a statement say that Malloy "continues to show signs that he'll uphold his commitment to investing in our children. We cannot afford to dial back our state's education reform efforts -- including the enhancement of early childhood education -- aimed at ensuring that every single child in Connecticut has access to a high-quality education regardless of wealth, race, or zip code."
Maggie Adair, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance said of Malloy's support for an Office of Early Childhood, "This is an investment that is long overdue. We think this is a win/win."
Elsa Koulla, of Hartford, the parent of a two-year-old, said she thinks having a single office is a good idea. "That would be better," said Koulla. "Sometimes you don't know where to get help.'
Myra Jones Taylor, who coordinated creation of the new office for Malloy, said the new program will combine the oversight and authority over the wide range of programs that serve young children, from day care programs, to pre-school to family day care.
By combining all of this under one office, Taylor said, it will make it much easier to make statewide improvements. "Right now," she said, "It is like steering a battleship because we have five different agencies, so coordinating and making policy changes without a unified vision is a huge challenge."
Taylor said she traveled the state talking with parents and providers as she worked on developing the new office. From parents, she said she heard they wanted to provide their children with the right early childhood education, but they found the "current system of delivery, confusing, unwieldy and lacking in integration." She said the providers of early childhood programs voiced concern about the number of children arriving with behavioral health problems and also had concerns about the state's licensing system.
The new office will be comprised of seventy-one staff people that will move into the new office from five separate state agencies. Four new positions will also be created including an executive director and three staff positions.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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