This fourth annual early care progress report on Connecticut’s early care and education system finds that funding for early childhood has remained stagnant in recent years. However, there are signs of progress, including increased investment in the current fiscal year and improvements in some measures of quality.
The report, which focuses on early care indicators through Fiscal Year 2012 (July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012), finds:
- Total spending on early care and education decreased by $2.6 million (1.1%) between Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012, primarily because of state budget cuts. Overall spending declined 5.3% from FY 2009 to FY 2012, and total spending on early care remains 11% below the level a decade ago in Fiscal Year 2002.
- As of October 2011, Connecticut was providing state-subsidized care to 9,274 infants and toddlers and 33,512 preschoolers. However, more than 80% of low-income families (earning less than 75% of the state median income) who have infants and toddlers, and about 30% of low-income families with preschoolers still did not have access to any such subsidy for early care and education.
- Connecticut is making progress on some measures of quality. A greater share of young children who receive state subsidies participate in accredited early care settings, and more program staff have college degrees and early care credentials. However, spending on quality and infrastructure (e.g., coordination, planning, and data collection) remains low, at only 4% of the total early care budget, despite research highlighting the importance of high quality for improved educational outcomes.
- The percent of kindergartners held back from the first grade in the state’s poorest school districts fell for the third straight year. However, kindergarten retention rates for children in poor communities are still twice as high as the statewide average and nearly four times the average for rich communities.
While this report focused on trends through Fiscal Year 2012, there are promising signs in increased funding budgeted for Fiscal Year 2013, including funds for 1,000 new School Readiness preschool slots, quality improvements, and capital improvements for early care facilities. In addition, during the current 2013 legislative session, the Governor and state legislators are considering the establishment of a new Office of Early Childhood that would consolidate funding streams from multiple agencies into one office with the authority to better coordinate early care services.