Committee: House Ways & Means & House Appropriations
Position: SUPPORT FOR PREKINDERGARTEN EXPANSION THROUGH MIXED DELIVERY
The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of the policy put forth by HB 1413 regarding the need for diverse-delivery prekindergarten expansion. The Conference represents the interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.
The Conference supports the work of the Kirwan Commission and its efforts toward improving Maryland’s exemplary education system. More specifically, HB 1413 provides a goal for “expanding access to high–quality, full–day 5 prekindergarten programs at no cost for 3–year–olds and 4–year–olds from low–income families through a mixed delivery system”. In that vein, the Conference supports the Commission’s efforts to expand prekindergarten slots for Maryland four-year-olds utilizing a mix of public and community-based providers.
When the General Assembly passed the Prekindergarten Expansion Act of 2014, it was acknowledged that Maryland would not be able to achieve a robust expansion of prekindergarten services to Maryland’s children without the participation of private providers. That legislation established a competitive grant program for the purposes of expanding prekindergarten services to four-year-olds whose family income is 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL) or lower. Prior to that time, only about a third of Maryland’s four-year-olds attend state-funded public prekindergarten, through a program enacted in 2002 and limited to 185% of the FPL. Through that model, Maryland can employ a number of the myriad of high-quality private prekindergarten programs statewide to provide prekindergarten services to an expanded group of lower-income four-year-olds.
All three of (arch)dioceses serving Maryland have a strong commitment to education and recognize the important role that kindergarten-readiness plays in a child’s educational development. Within the State of Maryland, there are approximately 120 prekindergarten programs in Catholic schools or parishes, in addition to Head Start programs. Nearly all are accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by MSDE and a vast majority of them employ state-certified prekindergarten teachers.
With these values in common, our schools are enthusiastic about partnering with the state in providing prekindergarten service to more Maryland families, particularly to those who are economically disadvantaged.