Governor O'Malley today visited Downtown Baltimore Child Care, a pilot site for universal pre-kindergarten, to read to students and highlight the O'Malley-Brown Administration's proposal to expand pre-kindergarten options for students in Maryland.
"There is no greater ladder into the middle class than a quality, world class education. That's why we've made the better choice to make record investments in Maryland's top ranked public schools and worked to hold down the cost of college tuition to national lows," said Governor O'Malley. "Expanding pre-k to more families will build on that success by ensuring that more children arrive in kindergarten fully ready."
"Universal Pre-K will allow all of Maryland's families to build strong educational foundations for their children, and give more of our young people the opportunity to succeed," said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. "By working together, we're going to expand high quality early education to help close the achievement gap in communities throughout our state, ensuring brighter futures for more of Maryland's students."
A key part of the O'Malley-Brown Administration's legislative agenda, the Prekindergarten Expansion Act of 2014 establishes a competitive Pre-Kindergarten Expansion Grant Program and Fund through which schools systems and community-based providers can apply to expand and enhance existing pre-kindergarten programs. The Administration's FY15 budget invests $4.3 million to fund the Program, which is expected to support half-day or full-day pre-kindergarten programs for approximately 1,600 children across the State.
"Early childhood education provides our youngest learners with the boost they need to enter kindergarten ready to learn," said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery. "There is no greater investment we can make in the future of our State. Eliminating the achievement gap must be our top educational priority, and we know the achievement gap exists in our kindergarten classes. Stronger early learning programs provide a path forward."
As part of the O'Malley-Brown Administration's ongoing efforts to bridge the achievement gap, the administration has increased funding for pre-kindergarten programs by 28 percent since taking office. Eighty-two percent of Maryland's kindergarteners entered school fully ready last year, up twenty-two percentage points from sixty percent in 2005.
Currently Maryland funds pre-kindergarten programs for four year-olds whose family makes up to 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The Administration's proposal would build on the State's existing system of Pre-K by expanding 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. In addition, the bill moves toward universal prekindergarten by ensuring that the State's long-term plan for education funding accounts for access to pre-kindergarten for all Maryland children.
Maryland students continue to make tremendous strides in achievement. Maryland schools ranked number one in the nation for five-years-in-a-row, according to Education Week. Recently, College Board announced that for the 8thconsecutive year, Maryland children top the nation in AP scores; they're also graduating from high school at the highest rate in State history. Maryland has made more progress on low-income student achievement than any other state in the nation. Maryland's low-income students boosted their math and reading test scores by 55 points over the past 8 years- the greatest improvement in the nation according to the Nation's Report Card.