Malloy Budget Cuts undermine quality early child care programs in Connecticut

Connecticut Voices for Children, a non-partisan research group, has produced a new report on the devastating impact that Governor Dannel Malloy’s budget is having on Connecticut’s Care 4 Kids program.

CT Voices reports;

The Care 4 Kids child care subsidy has played a key role in providing quality child care to low-income working families in Connecticut, enrolling an average of about 21,000 children per month in 2016.

 Last summer, however, increased program costs driven by federally mandated quality improvements resulted in a $33 million budget shortfall.

To address that budget gap, the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) closed enrollment for the program, leading to a current waitlist of about 3,000 families.  The waitlist is projected to increase to 5,000 families by July 2017.

[…]

We find that 30% of children age under five in the state live in low-income families that qualify for Care 4 Kids – but instead of receiving subsidies, these children and their families are placed on a waitlist with no definitive end date. Moreover, in 49% of Connecticut towns, Care 4 Kids is the only form of state support for child care. Under the Governor’s proposed budget, the subsidy program may not reopen until 2019, leaving thousands of parents with untenable choices. The legislature must adopt a budget that fully funds Care 4 Kids this year –our report presents policy solutions to make that happen.

The full policy report, which is entitled Care 4 Kids in Connecticut – The Impact of Program Closure on Children, Parents, explains the impact of Changes to Care 4 Kids Eligibility as follows;

Since the Closure of Care 4 Kids, enrollment has dropped significantly. The current waitlist contains about 3,000 families. The waitlist is projected to increase to about 5,000 families by July 2017.

Connecticut may see a decline in the number of child care centers and home day care providers. Loss of child care funding could have a spiraling effect, as centers and home care providers that receive partial funding from Care 4 Kids subsidies close their doors and are thus unable to meet the needs of other working parents.

Thousands of families may face a summer camp crisis. Care 4 Kids enrollment increases during the summer: 2,200 families requested “summer only” child care subsidies in 2016. Given the closure of Care 4 Kids to new applicants, we predict about 2,200 families (in addition to the regular waitlist) may be unable to afford safe child care this coming summer.

The CT Voices report concludes;

Even in difficult fiscal times, our state must protect the most vulnerable from harm. Care 4 Kids – which helps children access quality child care and education, enables low-income parents to work, and supports the statewide child care system on which all parents depend – is a critical program that must be protected.

Read the full report at: http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/Care%204%20Kids%20Brief%20%20Final.pdf

Notice – Important Community Conversation Session on January 9, 2017

Education advocates are invited to attend an important and free Community Conversation on EARLY LEARNING SUCCESS THROUGH COLLABORATION

The event will take place on January 9, 2017
8:15 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
SHERATON HARTFORD SOUTH, ROCKY HILL

Presenters Include:

CONNECTICUT VOICES FOR CHILDREN

THE ZIGLER CENTER AT YALE CONNECTICUT

CENTER FOR THE NEW ECONOMY

CONNECTICUT PARENT POWER

CONNECTICUT FAMILY RESOURCE CENTER ALLIANCE

And the CONNECTICUT COMMISSION ON CHILDREN

Program Background:

Parents, advocates, educators, and providers who help children develop into active learners can face daunting challenges, especially in an environment of dwindling resources. This free forum will showcase success stories that exemplify how community engagement, collaboration, and innovation can be harnessed to develop our youngest children into our strongest students. The forum will focus on practices that are working well and new strategies to address the unmet needs of families with young children.

The agenda includes:

  • Plenary Round Tables with Parents, Community Leaders, and Practitioners: Opportunities and challenges—what children need to start every day ready to learn.
  • Deeper Dive Breakout Sessions: Strategies to address early learning, early reading success, 21st century community schools, implicit bias, positive student behavior development, and other critical topics.
  • Plenary Lunch “Ed Talk:” Successes in community collaboration featuring Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento, California NAACP Education Chair.
  • Town Hall Panel Discussion: Audience Q&A. What was learned? What are some next steps?

For more details, visit www.teacher-policy-institute.org.

THIS FREE FORUM IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.  TO REGISTER, VISIT WWW.REGONLINE.COM/ COMMUNITYCONVERSATIONS

 

Connecticut need not look far for model on improving academic performance (by Wendy Lecker)

Hearst media commentator and fellow pro-public education advocate Wendy Lecker has another great commentary piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate.

Wendy writes:

“High-quality preschool is one of the best investments society can make in our children. It has been proven to improve academic outcomes and reduce the costly incidence of special education and grade retention. It increases high school graduation and reduces contact with the criminal justice system.

While Connecticut’s leaders have paid lip service to the value of high-quality preschool, they have not made a serious effort to address the inequity of preschool access in our state. For example, in the 2011-2012 school year, 98.3 percent of Westport’s kindergarten students attended preschool, nursery school or a Headstart program, compared with only 65 percent of neighboring Bridgeport’s kindergartners.

Last month, the federal government rejected the Malloy Administration‘s application for Race to the Top funds for expanding Connecticut’s preschool because Connecticut did “not present a High Quality Plan” to serve high-needs children.

The truth is, Connecticut would not have had to look very far to find a successful model of high-quality preschool serving high-needs children.

New Jersey’s Abbott preschool program has been recognized nationally as a stellar example of high-quality preschool.

In 1998, in New Jersey’s school funding case, called “Abbott,” the state’s highest court ruled that preschool is an essential component of a constitutionally adequate education and mandated universal full-day preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds in the 31 highest poverty districts in the state.

New Jersey then built a universal preschool program that resulted in strong and persistent gains for children in the Abbott districts. Children who attended the Abbott preschool outperformed those who did not in oral language, conceptual knowledge, math and literacy. Abbott preschool graduates were half as likely to be retained in a grade as those who did not; and children who attended Abbott preschool were much less likely to require special education services.

The way in which New Jersey achieved this system of high-quality preschool provides a lesson beyond just preschool. It is a model for school reform in general.

Following the court’s mandates, New Jersey was required to provide preschool programs that conformed to specific quality standards. In 1999, there was a patchwork of private and public providers already operating in these districts. Many were of sub-standard quality. On the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS), a research-based assessment of preschool program quality, less than 15 percent were rated good to excellent and nearly one in four was less than minimal quality. By 2007-08, the vast majority of classrooms were good to excellent, with no “poor” ratings.

New Jersey built a high-quality, diverse delivery preschool system by investing in existing community-based and Headstart programs, and expanding school-based preschool. The state paid to send preschool teachers back to school for additional certification and boosted teacher pay. It developed operational standards that enabled communities to serve the particular needs of their districts’ children; and developmentally appropriate curricula. The state provided technical assistance to providers, for example, in managing finances. Moreover, it invested in facilities and wrap-around services.

New Jersey did not close poor quality preschools. It did not engage in wholesale firing and replacement of staff. It did not impose outside managers unfamiliar with the communities. It did not force a “cookie-cutter” model that ignored the specific needs of each district. It did not replace existing schools with ones that exclude the neediest children.

In other words, New Jersey did not use the “turnaround” methods of reform favored by today’s school reformers.

Mass school closings are a disturbing trend in financially distressed districts across the nation. The closings disproportionately impact African-American and Latino students, seldom improving academic performance. School closures have a destabilizing effect on the entire community, as the schools closed were often anchors of the neighborhood. Often, the new replacement schools fail to serve the district’s most vulnerable children. When they do not close a school, reformers favor replacing a school’s staff, another ineffective strategy. In fact, it was recently revealed that the federal government has poured millions of dollars into “turnaround” efforts like these, which replace and displace rather than rebuild, with very little evidence of a successful return on its investment.

Connecticut’s education policies have been diverted down the wrong road. It is time to put Connecticut back on track. New Jersey’s Abbott program provides an alternate model; one that can be successful not only for preschool but also for K-12 education. While corporate reformers push slash-and-burn techniques that ignore and even destroy local institutions, the Abbott program proves that cultivation of community resources reaps long-lasting benefits — for children and the neighborhoods.”

You can read the full piece: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-N-J-could-offer-a-model-for-Conn-5132350.php

The CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Case: The incredible transformation of Malloy and Jepsen

Today, as explained in a Wait, What? blog post last Friday, Attorney General George Jepsen, with the help and support of Governor Dannel Malloy, is asking a Connecticut Superior Court judge to dismiss the most important school finance lawsuit in nearly five decades.  As noted in that blog, the case, CCJEF v. Rell, may well be the most important school finance lawsuit in Connecticut history.

Friday’s post, entitled “Jepsen/Malloy move to destroy most important school funding lawsuit in modern times,” points out that once upon a time, when Governor Dannel Malloy was Mayor Dan Malloy of Stamford, he not only supported the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit but was an original plaintiff in the historic battle to force the State of Connecticut to fulfill its constitutional obligation to the children of Connecticut.

As a candidate for governor, Malloy repeatedly proclaimed that he would implement a solution to Connecticut’s school finance crisis and end the need for the CCJEF v. Rell case.

But now with Malloy’s support, Connecticut’s attorney general is trying to dismiss this important case altogether.

Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepsen have the opportunity of a lifetime to put Connecticut’s school funding system on track, not only for this generation, but for generations to come.   Instead of rising to the occasion, they are squandering the opportunity to make a profound difference for Connecticut and its children.

To understand the depth of their failure on this vital issue, read some of the previous Wait, What? blogs on this topic;

The Dan to Dannel transformation on the most important education lawsuit in Connecticut history  (April 5)

Despite having promised their support for the lawsuit, they are now not only trying to get the case dismissed, but are asking the court to prevent the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF], a broad coalition of towns, schools, parents and public school advocates, from even serving as the plaintiffs in the case.

They are taking this unholy action despite the fact that the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the lower court to hear the case.

And perhaps worst of all, this destructive action is being perpetrated by people who not only said they supported the lawsuit, but used that support to deceive the people of Connecticut into voting for them.

Dan Malloy and the education lawsuit of our lifetime;

On November 22, 2005, Stamford Mayor and Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Malloy issued a press release entitled “Malloy Supports Lawsuit Challenging Education Funding System…says that reforming the education funding system is an issue of ‘fundamental fairness.’”

Jepsen/Malloy Continue to Squander the Opportunity of a Lifetime; (Feb 7)

Sometimes you’re just left shaking your head; wondering what on earth has happened to our “Leaders.”

A few months ago, Attorney General George Jepsen, with the direct approval of Governor Dannel Malloy, filed a legal motion in an attempt to ensure that Early Childhood Education was not included in the definition of what the Connecticut Supreme Court called the “adequate education” that is guaranteed in the Connecticut Constitution.

Now, Attorney General Jepsen has filed an unprecedented subpoena seeking tens of thousands of pages of documents belonging to ten of the school districts that brought the now-famous CCJEF vs. Rell lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to define what an “adequate education” meant. Continue reading “The CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Case: The incredible transformation of Malloy and Jepsen”

Do I need to stop the car and come back there?

Let’s just say it wasn’t one of Connecticut Legislature’s finest moments.

As two news stories today make pretty clear, a “he said/he said” situation has put $127 million in early childhood funding in jeopardy.

The CT Mirror’s article is entitled Childcare providers worry their money held hostage by politics, while CTNewsjunkie’ s story is called Did Early Childhood Bill Fall Victim To Sunday Bow Hunting?

Here’s the PROBLEM (as reported by CTMirror):    

“The state budget shifts $127 million in funding from various state agencies into a new Office of Early Childhood Education… But the office was never statutorily created because the bill that did so was never approved by the state House of Representatives or Senate.”

According to the CT Mirror, “Early childcare providers are concerned the money they currently receive from the state to care for thousands of children is going to stop flowing in three weeks –- because the state budget legislators approved transfers money to an office that doesn’t exist.”

The article goes on to report, “And officials at the State Department of Education are just as perplexed…’We are trying to figure out what it means,’ Brian Mahoney, the agency’s budget chief, said during an interview Thursday.”

Now that is a problem.

So what happened?

The President Pro Tempore of the Connecticut State Senate, Democrat Donald E. Williams Jr. explained that the Republicans held the early childhood bill “hostage” in order to force the State Senate to approve a bill allowing the bow hunting of deer on Sundays.

As William’s explained, “It was reported to me Republicans were holding it hostage for a completely unrelated and obscure issue: Sunday hunting,”

The Republican Leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Lawrence Cafero Jr., told the CT Mirror, “I wasn’t going to stop the early childhood bill…To fingerpoint to my side is an absolute joke.”

Meanwhile, CTNewsjunkie wrote, “Cafero claimed that, ‘you can’t boil the issue down to one bill or another. He said the Democrats wasted time on the last day by trying to sneak language into a bill that moved up the date of when undocumented immigrants could apply for their driver’s licenses. That language was eventually removed, but in the meantime Republicans slowed down debate on the floor…”

But have no fear, Malloy and legislators are already thinking about how to proceed.  As the CTNewsjunkie explained, “Williams said they are currently exploring their options and determining whether they can use an executive order and appropriate the funds through one of the existing state agencies. There’s also the option of returning for a special session, or if Malloy vetoes any legislation, a veto session. But Williams said that would be a last resort.”

Good to know that our elected officials can handle the stresses associated with the last few days of the legislative session.

Here are links to the two articles: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/childcare-providers-worry-their-money-held-hostage-politics and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/did_early_childhood_bill_fall_victim_to_sunday_bow_hunting/