Last week, Governor Dannel Malloy signed three new early childhood initiatives into law. Now Norwalk is hoping their youngest learners will benefit from these programs.
Senate Bill 25 will do a number of things that will impact Norwalk pre-schoolers.
"One is that it establishes the Office of Early Childhood, which consolidates a number of programs that were under different agencies into one. We are focusing on early childhood education with a goal of univeral pre-K, especially in our priority school areas and our urban areas which is Norwalk. It will hopefully reduce or eliminate the achievement gap in the state of Connecticut which is one of the largest in the nation," said Senator Bob Duff.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Manuel Rivera says expanded access to quality programming before students reach kindergarten is key.
"Every year we will have more than 900 students probably approaching 1000 kindergarten children coming into our system. Of that number approximately half actually have participated in a quality pre-school program. We want to see more and more of our young people come into kindergarten who are ready," said Dr. Rivera.
Members of Norwalk's Early Childhood Council say the formation of the office on a state level helps them do more for students locally.
Pam Augustine-Jefferson, Co-Chair of the Norwalk Early Childhood Council said, "Our goal is to build a horizontally and vertically aligned, high quality system of early care and education, prenatal to age 8. The formation of the Office of Early Childhood, that is focused on birth to five really goes a long way in helping us do that."
"If we are going to close the achievement gap by 2020 and we're going to have every single child reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade, they have to come into kindergarten ready," added Dr. Rivera.
Last year, the city received 50 of the 1000 slots for pre-Kingergarten programming - one of the largest in the state.
The city does not yet know how many slots they will be granted for the 2014-2015 school year.