At a recent meeting of the Early Education and Care Workforce Council, The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) announced the recipients of the fiscal year 2019 preschool expansion grants.
Known as Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (CPPI), the program awarded funding to six communities: New Bedford, Somerville, North Adams, Springfield, Lowell, and Boston. The funds will support preschool programs from February 1 through June 30, 2019. EEC expects to renew these grants in fiscal year 2020.
This round of preschool expansion is funded with state dollars. However, more state funds will be needed in FY2020 to meet the demand for preschool funding from other communities. A total of 12 communities applied for the CPPI grant, and at least three additional communities wanted to apply but didn’t because of their limited time and capacity to meet the January 4th deadline.
Since 2015, five Massachusetts communities have met the growing demand for preschool by using federal Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) funds. The PEG program funds 48 pre-K classrooms in these communities, and the funding supports approximately 850 children annually. But this federal support will expire this summer.
At least 19 communities, including the five with PEG funding, are ready to do even more. They are prepared to expand high-quality preschool and have detailed plans to do so that utilize the mixed-delivery system of public school and private, community-based early education centers. These plans are customized to meet community needs and fill gaps in access, quality, special services, and workforce development. But to start implementing these plans, most communities need additional public funding.
The Massachusetts Legislature can help. Legislators can build on Governor Baker’s recommendation for CPPI by funding preschool expansion at a level that would enable communities to meet current demand. Strategies for Children estimates that in FY2020, $30 million would be needed: $5 million to sustain current CPPI grantees, $10 million to expand to more communities that are ready, and $15 million to sustain federally funded PEG programs when their funding ends this year.
This would just cover the current demand. The CPPI program is likely to gain in popularity over time as more communities become aware of it.
So please contact your state legislators today and ask them to meet communities’ and families’ needs by investing in preschool expansion.