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CT Opinion

A Quality Preschool Education is Right Around the Corner

By Lena Rodriguez

According to a report in the Connecticut Mirror (first published in October 2018, but just recently re-published), as of 2017, “Forty-one states had a county or state-wide Quality Rating Improvement System for parents to use to research safety and educational quality of daycares.” But Connecticut is not among those 41 states, even after more than a decade of efforts by state leaders to create such a valuable system. This is a huge disservice to parents statewide. 

So when it comes to finding a high-quality preschool or daycare classroom for your children, what is the best way to find what you need? To my mind, every parent should know – particularly those in urban areas like Hartford – that they can easily find safe, nurturing and affordable preschool and daycare classrooms right in their own community. 

Children enjoying their day at CRT’s Grace Street preschool in Hartford.
(Photo courtesy of CRT)

For working families and single parents, knowing that there is a high-quality preschool within walking distance of their home is key. 

Among the families that the Community Renewal Team (CRT) serves in Hartford with its preschool program, more than 73% are single-parent households; and nearly 92% of the children enrolled qualify for free or reduced-price meals during the school day. 

In the case of all of the preschool and child daycare facilities offered by CRT, parents have access to full-day and full-year programming. Being able to drop-off a child first thing in the morning before work, and then being able to make an easy pick-up at the end of the day can make a real difference for any working parent.

For many of the families that rely on CRT for a high quality, affordable preschool program, those classrooms also serve as a gateway to multiple programs and services offered by CRT that will benefit the entire family, including things like: 

  • Energy Assistance to pay home-heating costs during the winter
  • Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Behavioral health services
  • Job placement
  • Financial literacy classes
  • Free tax preparation services and so much more.
  • The help we provide starts with the classroom, but it can become a real lifeline for families in need of support.

CRT has been providing these educational programs to young children (ages 0 – 5) for over 50 years; and all CRT locations are fully accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which is considered by many to be the “gold standard” for measuring the safety and quality of a program. It is worth noting that only 17 percent of programs in Connecticut have NAEYC accreditation, and “with the exception of a few programs (such as preschools in public schools) every provider must be licensed and inspected for safety.”

CRT President and CEO Lena Rodriguez reads to children during the 2018 National Child Abuse Prevention Day at one of CRT’s preschool classrooms.
(Photo courtesy CRT)

For the children we serve, we know that the educational environment they experience in preschool sets them up for success in later schooling and beyond. In the case of one of our classrooms, the children’s teacher is a real-life example of this experience. Marilyn Rhodes-Gooch was in a CRT preschool classroom as a child, and today she a dedicated part of our teaching staff. 

Additionally, CRT partners with Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters here in Hartford to bring what is lovingly known as “Abuelas” into our classrooms every day. These volunteer foster grandmas assist our teaching staff and provide a valuable connection to the children who may not always have a grandma in their daily lives. 

We know that recent assessments of our School Readiness program do not paint an accurate picture of what is really happening in our classrooms. A 20-minute classroom evaluation on one day – based on purely non-scientific, subjective opinions– does not properly demonstrate what goes on throughout the day, all year long in our classrooms. And we know that is the case with any preschool program that you might find. 

On behalf of the parents and children that we serve each and every day throughout the year, we extend an open invitation to members of the community – and in particular to our local elected officials – to spend a day in one of CRT’s classrooms, and see for themselves just what we do to help young children thrive and get ready for life after preschool. 

From there, let’s have a frank discussion with families, community leaders and elected officials (both state and municipal) about what it will take to finally establish a Quality Rating Improvement System here in Connecticut. The families of Connecticut deserve nothing less. 

Lena Rodriguez is the President and CEO of the Community Renewal Team, a multi-service, not-for-profit agency serving people throughout Hartford and Middlesex Counties. CRT is committed to finding ways to empower individuals and families that help them to achieve their goals. In 2018, CRT served the needs of more than 35,000 families and over 86,000 individuals. 

Publisher’s Note: champions the discussion and debate of issues addressing the quality of life of the Hispanic/Latino community. We welcome the opinions of all Connecticut communities in sharing knowledge, skills, values to make a difference through civic engagement. 

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