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Agencies Urge State Legislators to Protect Early Childhood and Parent Programs

Diane Orson
A parent training program at Lincoln-Bassett School in New Haven, in a WNPR file photo.
Research has shown that early childhood programs are important for intellectual development.

At least two groups are urging the Connecticut General Assembly to protect services that improve parent engagement and that help municipalities plan for early childhood education. 

Governor Dannel Malloy's administration is calling them "low priority programs." But if you ask Merrill Gay, these initiatives are making a big difference on the local level, especially among children and parents.

"We had a lot of parents who talked about how they didn't really understand how things worked until they had taken this parent leadership training program," Gay said. "Now they feel like, 'I understand enough about how decisions are made that I know where to speak up when something needs to change.'"

Gay is the executive director of Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance. He's concerned that if the governor's cuts are approved by the General Assembly, "a number of these collaboratives would wilt away."

The parent program, called the Parent Trust Fund, involves training for parents on how to advocate for their children and participate in civic life. Cutting this program would save $500,000 each year.

Connecticut Parent Power, an advocacy organization, has also publicly opposed the governor's plan to eliminate this program.

In addition to cutting the parent trust fund, Malloy is also suggesting to cut the early childhood program to save $750,000. This initiative helps each town or city develop their own system to address problems such as low birth weight, childhood obesity, and illiteracy.

Gay said that the state's money is broken down into small $20,000 grants to towns. A matching grant from a non-profit is contingent on the state money, so the cuts would effectively be doubled.

Research has shown that early childhood programs are important for intellectual development. Malloy cited this fact in his recent proposal to mandate full-day kindergarten across the state.

The cuts represent less than a half of a percent of the $590 million of Malloy's proposed reductions. 

David finds and tells stories about education and learning for WNPR radio and its website. He also teaches journalism and media literacy to high school students, and he starts the year with the lesson: “Conflicts of interest: Real or perceived? Both matter.” He thinks he has a sense of humor, and he also finds writing in the third person awkward, but he does it anyway.

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