Christine Stuart photo

It’s only the second week of December, but 70 organizations invested in early childhood initiatives crowded the podium at the Legislative Office Building Wednesday and urged Gov. M. Jodi Rell to continue investing in the state’s children.

Worried that some of their progress in recent years may disappear as Rell and lawmakers struggle with an estimated $6 billion budget deficit, advocates said they want the state to protect the children.

“This Governor has supported early childhood programs more than any other governor in recent history,” Chris Cooper, Rell’s spokesman said Wednesday. However, “right now the state faces difficult times and the Governor has said everything is on the table,” he added.

It’s that everything that worries early childhood advocates.

In an open letter to Rell, the 70 organizations acknowledged that there will need to be difficult budget choices made. “We ask you to stand by the wise investments you have made in Connecticut’s children. Supporting and protecting children should be a core principle of our society—in good times and in hard times.”

State Rep. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said in hard times lawmakers will have to work even harder to look at the state’s priorities. She said the children are the future and by investing in them early on the state will reap the rewards in the years that follow.

“Unlike road repairs, a kid can not be put on hold even temporarily,” Jamey Bell, executive director of Connecticut Voices for Children, said.

Shaun McNally, executive director of Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, warned that too often it’s the powerful that get the help, and the most vulnerable are left in the shadows. He said the advances early childhood initiatives have made are fragile.