HARTFORD — After years of trying to provide early childhood education to all underprivileged preschoolers in the state, there are still an estimated 4,965 three and four year olds who go without, according to a new report from the state Department of Education.
The annual price tag to provide preschool to those youngsters would be $43.7 million.
The report, which the department has been required to produce annually since 2004, suggests the number of preschool slots statewide in priority school districts is increasing, but so is the demand. In the state’s 19 neediest school districts, it is estimated there are 6,058 fewer spaces than three- and four-year-olds but that just 4,965 would take advantage of spaces if they were available due to family choice.
In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the state spent $69.2 million to help subsidize 9,576 preschool slots. Parents pay what they can, the state picks up the rest.
Theresa Hopkins-Staten, vice chairwoman of the state Board of Education, said she was disheartened after years of efforts to provide universal preschool experiences, it doesn’t seem the state has gotten very far.
“We talk about it and talk about it. Now we need to make a commitment,” she said. She urged the state to partner with agencies like United Way to speed up the process.
Hopkins-Staten and many others see preschool as essential to helping close the achievement gap because students who enter kindergarten with no early learning experience ususally have a lot of catching up to do.
Here is the latest statistics on unserved need that doesn’t take into account the 1,000 new slots added by the legislature for this year.