Child advocates feel early childhood education must be a top-of-mind issue for Connecticut lawmakers.
A new report found early learning in the state is dogged by high costs to parents, low wages for staff, and other issues.
Federal pandemic funds bolstered the flailing system for a time. Since those dollars are gone, the state and other groups are looking for ways to improve child care.
Carla Abdo-Katsipis, research and policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, said family child care home providers are disappearing faster than others.
“The total number of licensed FCCs dropped from 1,908 in 2022 to 1,817 in 2023, a reduction of 91 providers,” Abdo-Katsipis reported.
She added in the last 20 years, more than 1,300 family child care providers have left the industry. Last year, Gov. Ned Lamont and the Office of Early Childhood created a blue-ribbon panel to develop best practices for revitalizing early childhood education. Its recommendations include investing in workforce compensation, developing pathways to employment, and prioritizing under-resourced communities when developing new education centers.
Deficiencies in child care also affect students in special education programs. The number of pre-K public school children who need individualized education plans increased by 16% from 2012 to 2022. Abdo-Katsipis described the challenges the issues present for special education students.
“There is increased difficulty in finding child care for children with special needs, as the number of providers with appropriate qualifications is limited,” Abdo-Katsipis explained. “Children with special needs are 30% more likely to experience preschool expulsion than their peers. This too is a function of recognizing that a child has special needs.”
Since the state is seeing an increase in students with special needs, the report calls for an expansion of home-visiting programs to help the families of special needs children.