Gov. Dannel P. Malloy used the Martin Luther King Day celebration Monday to call upon the legislature to codify his executive order of last year creating an Office of Early Childhood.
Creation of the new agency was stymied in the last few hours of the legislative session when the Democrat-controlled Senate refused to take up a Republican-backed House bill that would have allowed Sunday bow hunting.
According to Democratic lawmakers, House Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, promised to filibuster the bill creating the Office of Early Childhood if the Senate Democrats, led by Sen. President Donald Williams, didn’t pass the bow hunting bill.
“Republicans killed the early childhood initiative because they linked it to a completely unrelated and obscure issue — Sunday hunting,” Williams said in June after the end of the legislative session.
Cafero argued that’s not an entirely accurate interpretation of events. He said you can’t boil the issue down to one bill or another. He said the Democratic Party is in the majority and can call a bill anytime they want.
“They don’t have to wait until the last day,” Cafero has said.
Malloy is hoping that the partisan bickering has dissipated and the needs of the children will prevail.
“With another legislative session on the horizon, I believe it’s critical that the office be statutorily created to ensure future continuity of services,” Malloy said in a press release. “A smart, coordinated system that makes sure we are providing quality services to the children who need them is an important part of our effort to give everyone in our state the chance to succeed throughout their lives.”
Sen. Toni Boucher, the ranking Republican on the legislature’s Education Committee, said there is no disputing the research, which says early learning for this age group is critical to future success.
However, she wants to make sure state resources are distributed properly. Sometimes big state agencies have a tendency to be bureaucratic and have an inability to communicate from one office to another and can hamper delivering the services to that “very important group,” Boucher said.
She said she thinks having an Office of Early Childhood that’s under the state Department of Education “makes a great deal of sense.”
Boucher added that “we hope that there’s also some economies of scale that can be acquired, but more importantly it’s the ability to provide services in a more seamless way with different offices talking to each other.”
While Boucher is generally supportive of the idea if it streamlines services, her Republican colleagues tend to be divided on the issue because it’s unclear to some if the creation of the office is an expansion of government.
The Office of Early Childhood was developed in concert with agency commissioners, early childhood education and development advocates, parents, caregivers, and other stakeholders. It currently exists under Malloy’s executive order, which brought together programs and services that were previously housed in five separate state agencies. Malloy’s administration argues that it’s a consolidation of services and not an expansion of government.
The state budget allocated $127 million in the first year and $232 million in the second year for creation of the office and the services it provides.