Christine Stuart photo
Meriden will get 35 more preschool slots next year as part of an expansion of the state’s funding for 3- and 4-year-olds.

In total, an additional 1,020 low-income children from 46 cities and towns will now have access to early childhood programs, including 40 more in Hartford, 126 in Bridgeport, and 8 in New Haven.

Click here for a full list of the funding.

The expansion of the preschool slots was part of a bill signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last month.

“We know that investing in high-quality education is the single most important investment we can make in our state and our economy,” Malloy told a group of students and teachers at the Meriden YMCA Child Care Center on Wednesday.

He said no child should lose a preschool experience because of their parents’ income or a zip code. Malloy often cites the universal preschool program available to all 4-year-olds in Stamford as one of his biggest accomplishments.

Unable to institute universal access statewide because of funding constraints, Malloy said the additional slots help move the state in that direction.

“With this expansion we are taking a new first step in our history towards the goal of assuring as I said that every child in Connecticut can have this opportunity regardless of their financial circumstances or their zip code,” Malloy said.

Christine Stuart photo
During his remarks, the children were distracted by the butterflies their teachers had released prior to the start of the press conference. The children swatted at the butterflies that lingered behind and screeched with excitement or fear.

“Just let them fly around,” Malloy encouraged the students. “Don’t hurt ‘em.”

His advice to teachers at the school was to release the butterflies after the press conference — not before.

Christine Stuart photo
The legislation Malloy touted Wednesday also created the Office of Early Childhood and separate legislation incorporated additional funding for public schools to expand their preschool programs. The latter was pitched by outgoing Sen. President Donald Williams, and construction grants for that program will begin in 2015. Funding for the operation of those preschools will begin in 2016 with $10 million from the Tobacco Settlement Fund.

There are a total of 12,000 school readiness slots next year for children, according to Myra Jones-Taylor, commissioner of the Early Childhood Office.

By 2018, the state expects to reach universal access to preschool throughout the state.