The changing landscape of early childhood in CT
I belong to a group consisting of area directors; our primary focus is to provide affordable professional development opportunities to our staff. At our November meeting a couple of directors voiced their concern over loss of enrollment due to public, magnet and charter preschool opportunities being offered in their area. We decided to invite Senator Beth Bye (in photo) to our next meeting in order to help us all better understand our state’s view on early childhood education and hopefully help us better plan for our program’s futures.
A few days ago, I was that meeting and I have to say that I was pleased with the Senator’s candidness as well as her genuine empathy for each of our programs. There is no doubt that our state wants to provide quality early education to all, but struggles with a system that would adequately provide this. Beth explained that a leader will be appointed soon, and will be charged with the enormous task of beginning to organize a more efficient, equitable, and user friendly system for early childhood education in the state of CT. In the meantime however, many of us in the group continue to face the threat of losing families to lower costing program offerings, some that are offered for free. Furthermore, we feel saddened by the fact that these programs are not always accredited and/or required to follow department of public health regulations like we are. These less expensive programs may not be offering the quality of care that we private programs offer, yet in a time of recession, parents will more often then not, choose the less expensive option.
I feel that Senator Beth Bye truly understands our concerns. Beth has worked as a child care director and has experienced many of the challenges of running an early childhood program. She clearly understands the business end of directing a program as well as aspects needed to offer a quality early childhood experience.
“What would you do if you were the director of a private program?”
We asked this question of Senator Bye…and I was impressed with her response.
1) She encouraged us to be a presence within our local board of education as well as our state government.
2) She suggested becoming affiliated with advocacy groups and to be a voice for private programs.
3) Most importantly, she encouraged us to look at our programs and assess what we do best, what makes us different from magnet/public school programs, and to not be afraid to promote those strengths within our community.
4) She also empowered us to look at ways of offering new levels of care and programming in order to offer activities that public/magnet schools can not.
When Senator Beth Bye left our meeting, the group felt overwhelmed yet inspired and empowered, supported and united. We, as a group, have a plan to look at ways of voicing our views at the town and state level and personally I think we each felt a sense of direction on how to lead our own programs into the future.
Early education is an evolving system within our state and I’m sure the same goes for other states in our country. Today I learned a valuable lesson in connecting with those in government who share the same passion and devotion as I, and I walk away feeling inspired to continue to work hard in this field.
Image from Senator Beth Bye's CT Senate Democrats page