Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children


Even though its federally funded Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) has run out, Springfield, Mass., is continuing to grow its preschool program.

“We win or lose the game at the preschool level,” Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Warwick said when his city won the federal grant.

The PEG grant supported 195 children in 11 classrooms through a mixed-delivery system that included the nonprofit organizations Square One, Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start, and the YMCA of Greater Springfield.

Now, building on the catalyst of PEG grant funding, Warwick is ensuring that young children will keep winning.

“After a successful pilot program last year,” reports, “Warwick said the preschool programming will be extended to include 19 schools for a total of 643 seats, representing a district investment of more than $1.5 million.”

“Research shows that high-quality preschool provides a substantial head start for young students,” Warwick says in the article.

For children, the payoff is huge:

“These additional seats provide options for three- and four- year old children to attend half days or full days of school in a high-quality setting that nurtures the social emotional development of children and provides developmentally age-appropriate experiences that immerse children in literacy and language development as well as engaging experiences that develop mathematics, science, social studies, the arts, and movement,” Laura Mendes, director of literacy for elementary and early education for Springfield Public Schools, added.

The need is considerable. As the article explains:

“The district’s most recent Kindergarten Readiness Assessment survey showed 6% of students are prepared for kindergarten.

“ ‘We found this data completely unacceptable,’ Warwick said. ‘We knew we had to prioritize early education, especially because of the promise it holds for future academic success all the way from elementary to high school.’ ”

Now that PEG funding has ended, it’s up to the commonwealth and individual cities and towns to continue to invest in children. And while Springfield’s investment is exciting, not every community can follow its lead.

Massachusetts is helping through its Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (CPPI), a state-funded program that distributes grants for preschool expansion.

In fiscal year 2019, CPPI had $5 million to invest in grants. And it will have the same amount in fiscal year 2020.

But as we’ve blogged, more funds are needed. “Strategies for Children estimates that $25 million for CPPI would be enough to backfill federal PEG funds ($15 million), sustain current CPPI grantees ($5 million) and expand with grants to new communities ($5 million).”

Incremental growth will help the young children who are lucky enough to live in towns that receive grants. But to make real progress, Massachusetts needs a statewide plan for preschool expansion.

So please reach out to your elected officials and tell them that all the state’s children should have the strong, early learning foundation that Springfield is giving more of its children.