Effort underway to expand pre-K options in Maryland

BALTIMORE, Md. - Nearly 1,600 additional children would be able to attend some form of pre-K schooling under a budget and legislative proposal supported by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The $4.3 million proposal, unveiled Thursday during a news conference in Annapolis, would expand the number of pre-K slots available to include Maryland children whose families make between 185 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which was $70,650 for a family of four in 2013.

Since the 2007-08 school year, all Maryland jurisdictions were required to make public pre-K available to all economically disadvantaged or homeless 4-year-olds. The state currently defines economically disadvantaged as a family whose income is at or below 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, According to state figures, in the 2012-2013 school year, 26,402 4-year-olds were enrolled in pre-K programs offered by Maryland public schools.

The bill also establishes a pre-K expansion fund, which would allow businesses and philanthropic entities to contribute to the effort. The Maryland State Department of Education would be responsible for managing the fund and taking geographic diversity into account when distributing the money.

In addition, the bill would allow local school districts and local providers to apply for funds to expand existing half-day programs to full-day, and full-day programs into "Judy Centers."

According to a state news release, through the Judith P. Hoyer Early Child Care and Education Enhancement Program established in 2000, Judy Centers "provide a central location for early childhood education and support services for children birth through kindergarten and their families. These centers typically provide up to 12 hours of care each day and include significant family and health services in addition to full-day pre-K".




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