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News

Early childhood education gets $150 million investment from state

Joaquin Freiberg, 5, cheers above the crowd, hoisting a sign that reads, "Teachers help kids play, grow, and learn!"
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Joaquin Freiberg, 5, cheers above the crowd, hoisting a sign that reads, "Teachers help kids play, grow, and learn!"

A $150 million injection into the state’s early childhood system would provide much-needed relief, child care providers said during a news conference hosted by Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday.

At Trinity College’s Community Child Center in Hartford, Lamont said the investment is important because it would allow every child to have a fair shot at life.

“It’s the largest investment the state has ever made. We’ve doubled our commitment from the last few years to support child care,” he said. “We’re making sure we have enough caregivers, making sure we give them incentives and making sure that the work pays.”

The state House of Representatives approved the $150 million investment Monday as a part of the state budget. The state Senate adopted the budget on Tuesday.

Child care providers said the investment would address longtime problems in the state’s early child care system, such as improving mental health programs, hiring and retaining child care workers and financial support for families.

It would also provide relief through wage supplements for all state child care providers, add 1,300 infant and toddler spots in child care programs funded by the state and increase workforce training.

Deb Flis, director of quality improvement at the state Office of Early Childhood, said the investment was a long time coming.

“The foundation of high-quality child care is a well-trained workforce, which provides the nurturing care and planful learning experiences children need to advance their development,” she said.

New Haven parent Steven Cousin shared his own family’s difficulties in finding affordable child care for their children, ages 8 and 4.

“Year after year, my wife and I constantly talk about just the cost of child care. Being in a two-income household, how do we make ends meet?” he said. “And even when we try to make it work, there is always another hurdle that gets in the way.”

One of those hurdles was finding out that their son needed a speech pathologist, said Cousin. What was supposed to be a free service provided by the school district turned into the family having to find their own private speech pathologist. Cousin said they were fortunate to be able to do that, but he emphasized that not all families have the ability to give the very best that their children deserve.

“This legislation today is a step in that direction,” he said. “We would not be here today without all of the advocacy that was done prior. Child care providers raised up their voices saying that we need help — we are thankful that the cries did not go unheard by our legislators and our governor’s office.”

The investment would also go toward paid apprenticeship programs, facility renovations and grants for state-funded readiness and child care programs to help address worker shortages.