Gov. Dannel Malloy deployed some inventive tools in New Haven’s Fair Haven Heights neighborhood Tuesday to help close Connecticut’s educational achievement gap: a squishy-toy hammer and a ceremonial golden shovel.
He used the shovel to break ground for a new home for the Friends Center for Children on upper East Grand Avenue. The center is an independent 50-week-a-year school for little ones from three months to 5 years old.
It’s a cooperative school, meaning parents pitch in time and/or expertise, and it’s inspired by by Quaker values of, among others, simplicity, peace, and truth, said Executive Director Allyx Schiavone. The center is a not-for-profit separate from the Religious Society of Friends (or Quakers), although both groups share board members.
The bucolic new center will sit on grounds given to it by the New Haven Friends Meeting on its upper Grand Avenue property adjacent to city park land.
Click here for a story with on details of the building and new parking lot when the plans passed the Board of Zoning Appeals in September, 2010.
When completed next spring, the project will enable the center to serve up to 70 kids. Now it serves 18 and has a long waiting list.
State bond money covers $1.7 million of the building’s total $3.2 million cost. Private local fundraising accounts for the rest.
The squishy hammer was a gift from the center and its kids. The governor could have chosen a squishy helmet from the box offered him. He selected the hammer instead.
“I might use it on the legislature,” he quipped.
The governor was in the Heights to promote the importance of his early child education agenda as part of his educational performance reform package.
In July he added 1,000 new early early childhood spaces to the School Readiness network. He said perhaps 36 of those might be in the new facilities of the Friends Center when it opens in the spring.
In his remarks the governor echoed Friends Center chief Schiavone and other speakers in asserting there is no better way, proven by the research, to close the achievement gap than to start early.
The earlier the better.
Malloy called it “scary stuff” that the statewide high school graduation rate has fallen. The key to reverse that is more and higher quality early childhood ed like at the Friends Center, Malloy said. “To go from 18 to 70” including spots for kids who might not normally be able to afford it, “is very important news in our state.”
The governor was asked if continued state support for early childhood education is off limits to the widespread budget-cutting now beginning at the Capitol because of the looming $415 million deficit.
“Nothing’s off limits, but there are ‘last’ off-limit items. Early childhood is one of them,” the governor responded.