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Senator DiDomenico Presses for Action to Expand Early Education Access

BOSTON- Senator Sal DiDomenico recently testified before the Joint Committee on Education in support of legislation that would improve quality and expand access to early education and pre-kindergarten in the Commonwealth. Senator DiDomenico has been a longtime champion of early education in the Massachusetts Legislature and urged his colleagues in the House and Senate to commit to expanding access to high quality early education and Pre-K throughout the state.

Senator DiDomenico is the lead sponsor of a number of early education bills that would increase access to high quality early education and pre-kindergarten, including “An Act ensuring high quality pre-kindergarten education.” Modeled after a system that has shown success in closing the achievement gap in other states, this legislation provides a targeted, phased-in plan for expansion of pre-kindergarten for low-income 3 and 4-year-old children from underperforming districts with traditionally poor third-grade reading proficiency levels. The bill also allows districts to provide public Pre-K classes and to work with high-quality private sector organizations to meet the needs of children and families in their specific communities.

There are currently 105,000 three and four-year olds in Massachusetts whose families receive no public support for early education and more than 7,000 high-need children on the waitlist for state-subsidized early childhood education slots. Low-income children who participate in high-quality early education are 40% less likely to be held back or require special education, 30% more likely to graduate from high school, and twice as likely to go to college.

In his testimony, Senator DiDomenico told the members of the Joint Committee that educating the future leaders of our communities should be a top priority, and called upon them to pass legislation this session that would expand access to high quality early education.

“Early education is a right for every child, not a privilege,” said Senator DiDomenico. “High quality early education has proven to be a vital indicator of a child’s future success and a key component to closing the achievement gap between low income students and their higher income peers. This is why early education has consistently been one of my top priorities in the Massachusetts Senate. We must invest in our children’s future by ensuring high quality early education so every student in the Commonwealth has the opportunity to succeed.”

While legislators have often acknowledged the need to expand access to early education in the past, those pledges have not always come to fruition. However, the Massachusetts Senate has signaled a renewed commitment to early education this legislative session.

“We embarked on the 2015-2016 Legislative session with the goal of seeking shared prosperity in the Commonwealth,” said Senate President Rosenberg. “But 43% of our third graders are not reading at grade level, and when we focus on low-income, black, and Latino third graders that number jumps to over 60%.  I look forward to working with the Joint Committee on Education, the House, and the Governor to address this urgent need.”

Prior to testifying before the Joint Committee, Senator DiDomenico spoke to an audience of early education advocates calling on them to continue their fight for high quality early education. Senator DiDomenico called upon the activists to continue pushing state legislators on this issue: “The question you’ve got to ask them is ‘At what level? Not just in words only, are you going to be there when it comes down to a vote?’”

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