The Day – Good for the kids, good for the economy

At last week’s General Assembly, proposals were offered for a once-in-a-generation opportunity to comprehensively address two issues that concern Connecticut: the state routinely lags behind others in creating jobs and economic growth rates and, despite its excellent learning institutions and high overall student performance, still suffers from an intractable K-12 learning gap.

If enacted in terms similar to those that emerge from the commissionsthe bills could transform children’s entire school experience and simultaneously meet the state’s immediate and future needs for more skilled and educated workers.

It won’t come cheap, but instead of the two-year budget band-aids that have done little to touch the two issues, the legislature is being asked to support long-term early childhood and pre-kindergarten programs that have been proven to they improve the preparation of children for kindergarten and the next 12 years of their studies.

Being ready for kindergarten is the best thing that can happen to a ninth grader. Knowing that your young child is not only safe and satisfied, but also that learning helps parents earn a living.

Lawmakers will have to weigh up to $700 million in funding requests for measures that could have secured federal funds under the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan to fix “human infrastructure.” This legislation has taken a back seat, but combined with pandemic-forced remote and hybrid learning experiences, educators and families are increasingly convinced that early education gives children the best chance of succeeding in school. school. The long-term goal is the same as it always has been: higher graduation rates and preparing young adults for post-secondary or college education.

Until now, state budget deficits and lack of reserve funds have prevented investment in early childhood and kindergarten programs at the levels needed. With the rainy day fund overflowing and the boost already received from federal funds from ARPA, large-scale investment is now feasible if the will is there.

Specifically, the bills from both state houses would fund significantly more places for children and improve salaries and tuition assistance for early childhood teachers — who typically work for nonprofits. , are not unionized and are paid much less than public school teachers. More child care programs would be accredited. The proposals would make not just working parents, but those studying or training for a job eligible for childcare support. Behavioral problems in children would be better monitored as a health problem and more quickly treated.

The problems of poverty and racial inequality, voter apathy and disgruntled citizens, and taxpayer frustration at throwing money at issues with little result are inherent in reforms. The failure to match good jobs begging with Connecticut’s young adults unprepared for them affects everyone who lives here or gives up and leaves. The cycle breeds resignation and even despair.

Advocates, including CEOs of child care programs in this region — CCTVCA, Riverside Children’s Center and South East CT Child and Family Agency – say a key need is to create more teaching jobs and reverse the decline in the number of university students majoring in early childhood education, as they will be poorly paid. With the rise in the state minimum wage, teachers of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers no longer earn much more than the minimum, but often carry bills and loans from an associate or teacher. ‘a Bachelor’s degree.

Throughout the pandemic, the three local programs have remained open, providing on-call services to doctors, nurses and other essential workers. Program staff – many of whom were young parents themselves – thus became essential to the work of health professionals. Even though the emergency has subsided, preschool and early childhood teachers remain essential for parents to work.

At Riverfront in Groton, parents pay tuition on a sliding scale, with the full weekly cost for an infant or toddler at $290 and for a preschooler at $185. Fees do not cover costs. The three local programs combined currently must raise more than $1 million in donations to support annual operations. Across the state, providers are asking for an increase in the state’s annual payment from $9,000 per child to $14,500.

Something must be done if Connecticut’s economy, education system, income and employment in 2030 are going to be better than they are today. There are good reasons to bet that this investment is that “something”.

Day’s editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and meets weekly to formulate editorial views. It is made up of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editor-in-Chief Izaskun E. Larrañeta, Editor Erica Moser, and the retired Associate Editor. Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editor of the editorial page are responsible for the development of editorial notices. The board operates independently of Day’s newsroom.

Norma A. Roth