The final state budget approved by state legislators will result in significant improvements in educational opportunities for Connecticut children from preschool through college.
The budget plan, along with related early care legislation, increases access to early education through:
- Expanding School Readiness, Connecticut’s major subsidized prekindergarten program for children in high-poverty communities. The budget funds over 1,000 new slots in the next fiscal year and over 4,000 new spaces in the next 4 years. It also raises reimbursement rates for providers with the goal of increasing quality.
- Creating a new competitive grant program, Smart Start, which offers a financial incentive to school districts to create new pre-kindergarten classrooms. Both the expansion of School Readiness and the implementation of Smart Start are designed to reach the 20 percent of children in the state who enter kindergarten without any preschool experience at all.
- Formalizing the status of the Office of Early Childhood — a state agency created last year by executive order, aimed at improving coordination and planning for the state’s early education system.
The approved budget also improves funding for K-12 and higher education:
- Increasing funding to the State Department of Education by $28 million, including:
- An additional $7.7 million in the Education Cost Sharing grant, the state’s primary source of education aid to towns;
- $11.5 million to comply with the terms of the Sheff settlement, which seeks to ensure a quality, integrated education for Hartford children; and
- $12.5 million for magnet schools.
- Increasing funding to the Board of Regents, which encompasses community-technical colleges, Connecticut State Universities, and Charter Oak College, by $42 million, including:
- $23 million for the new “Transform CSCU” initiative to improve quality and affordability at state colleges and universities, and
- $19 million, drawn from the reserves of the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation.