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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Democrats Announce Push for Universal Pre-K

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Democratic legislative leaders have announced they intend to pass legislation that will pay for thousands more children to enroll in public schools’ preschool programs. Thousands of Connecticut students start kindergarten each fall having never attended preschool and trailing their peers academically.

“This promises to be an answer to a problem that has plagued us for too long,” Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Wednesday.

The lawmakers’ plan – labeled “Smart Start”—calls for $10 million to be spent next school year, and in each of the following nine years—to provide an as yet undetermined number of new seats in public school classrooms taught by certified teachers with college degrees.

Every school district that can “demonstrate unmet need” will be eligible for funding, and districts must make children from low-income families a priority when filling the added preschool seats. Children from middle-class families could also be provided a spot, as districts could require that, based on their income, they pay tuition.

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