As Connecticut lawmakers decide where to cut state spending, advocates for early childhood education are concerned that the state could lose millions of dollars in long-term benefits if quality child-care remains on the chopping block.
Nobody in Connecticut has said that early childhood education should be eliminated. But there are at least five budget proposals being floated at the capitol, and all of them seek to keep enrollment closed for the Care 4 Kids program. It's where thousands of kids receive low-cost or free care.
"Early care in education -- in terms of providing quality care for children zero to five -- is one of the most effective types of investments that we can do," said Daniel Long with Connecticut Voices for Children.
They've looked at the number of kids in the state who need care, and what could happen if the state increased funding and improved quality, rather than cut back.
"If all children have access to the quality care that their families need," he added, "and the existing programs are improved to high quality, those gains, in terms of long-term benefits, would be over $13 billion."
That dollar figure is based on a ratio created by Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman, who suggested that for every dollar spent on high quality care for newborns and children up to five, the return on investment is over $7. These kids end up getting more education and land higher paying jobs, and stay off state support.
But Long's numbers rely on people staying in Connecticut, which has seen its population decline over the last three years. Long said the majority of these benefits would still remain in Connecticut, and higher wages could mean less migration.
There are also proposals to merge or eliminate the Office of Early Childhood, and to cut funding for family resource centers, which provide education programs for parents and other child-related services.
Chris McClure, a spokesman for Governor Dannel Malloy, said spending needs to be sharply reduced, even for important programs, to "cover rising fixed costs and anticipated revenue next year."