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Hartford Foundation Testimony on the Office of Early Childhood, and Universal Preschool

On Monday, March 6, the Hartford Foundation submitted testimony to the legislature's Education Committee in support of Senate Bill 952, An Act Concerning The Sharing Of Federal Funding Between The Office Of Early Childhood And The Department Of Social Services. This bill which offers a new approach to previous proposals to move the Care4Kids program to the Department of Social Services and separate the Office of Early Childhood from its appropriate role in this vital childcare program. This bill would have the Department of Social Services pass through federal funds to the Office of Early Childhood for the purposes of administering these funds for the Care4Kids childcare program.

In addition, the testimony included language in support for S.B. No. 954, An Act Concerning the Development of a Plan for Universal Preschool. The Hartford Foundation has made significant investments in efforts to ensure that every child in our region has a high quality preschool experience through a wide variety of settings including public, private and home-based programs. The Foundation urged the Committee to consider having Office of Early Childhood lead this planning process in conjunction with the Department of Education. The Foundation also reminded policymakers of the need to ensure that a universal preschool plan for three and four year olds maintains the viability of the many programs that also serve infants and toddlers. Research confirms that children need a continuum of high-quality early childhood experiences and transitions, beginning at birth, for success in preschool and the early grades of school.

Read our full testimony below.

 

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Testimony Regarding Senate Bill 952, An Act Concerning the Sharing Of Federal Funding Between the Office of Early Childhood and the Department Of Social Services

Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
Education Committee
March 6, 2017 

Good afternoon Senator Slossberg, Senator Boucher, Representative Fleishmann, Representative Lavielle and distinguished members of the Education Committee.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for the 29-town Greater Hartford region. We are the largest community foundation in Connecticut, and among the largest 20 community foundations in the country with a mission to put philanthropy into action to promote equitable opportunity for all residents in our region. The Foundation has long prioritized the importance of a strong early childhood system that is grounded in research and best practices and demonstrates an investment in high-quality early childhood programs as a strategy to drive children's success in school and life and promote economic growth. Since 1987, we have invested more than $40 million in early childhood in the Greater Hartford area, primarily through the Brighter Futures Initiative and the Hartford Area Child Care Collaborative. In 2016, the Foundation awarded grants totaling $33 3 million, of which approximately $2 million was dedicated to early childhood system building in our region and statewide.

Our efforts include a significant role in the creation and support of the Office of Early Childhood (the OEC). As you know, the OEC resulted from extensive study of national and statewide research and a stakeholder process that included early childhood experts, legislators, philanthropy, providers and parents throughout the state which concluded that a unified child and family-centered early childhood agency with a dedicated focus on policy, funding and program quality is necessary to ensure optimal safety and learning outcomes for young children and pathways to economic security for their families and caregivers. Research highlighting the benefits of a unified approach to early childhood system building has not changed since the establishment of the OEC.

The Hartford Foundation supports Senate Bill 952, An Act Concerning The Sharing Of Federal Funding Between The Office Of Early Childhood And The Department Of Social Services. We believe that this option represents a more reasonable and effective approach compared to the previous proposals to move the Care4Kids program to the Department of Social Services and separate the Office of Early Childhood from its appropriate role in this vital childcare program. 

In just a few years, the OEC has demonstrated the promise of a unified agency children through strategic planning and culture building to bring together staff from five agencies with a shared vision. OEC has partnered with the statewide Early Childhood Collaborative, secured funding from private philanthropy and leveraged federal funds the federal Preschool Development Grant. The OEC has become a vital link between local community-based providers and state policy makers and built important relationships with home-based early childhood providers, made progress in developing a Quality Improvement System. The OEC recently released a draft of an extensive unmet needs study to understand how early childhood and education programs should be funded and structured to provide universal access to children through age five. 

We also wish to express our support for S.B. No. 954, An Act Concerning the Development of a Plan for Universal Preschool. The Hartford Foundation has made significant investments in efforts to ensure that every child in our region has a high quality preschool experience through a wide variety of settings including public, private and home-based programs. We believe that the Office of Early Childhood is well-positioned to lead this planning process in conjunction with the Department of Education. Itwill be critical for policymakers to ensure that a plan to provide universal preschool for three and four year olds maintains the viability of the many programs that also serve infants and toddlers. Research confirms that children need a continuum of high-quality early childhood experiences and transitions, beginning at birth, for success in preschool and the early grades of school.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Elysa Gordon at 860-548-1888 or EGordon@hfpg.org.

 


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