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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate passes Sturgeon bill to explore expansion of early childhood education services

June 26, 2019

Delaware State Senate Majority Caucus
Contact: Scott Goss (302) 744-4180, or
Dylan McDowell (302) 744-4282

DOVER – A group of lawmakers and education policy experts soon could begin exploring how Delaware might someday ensure that all children have access to high-quality, early education, under legislation passed Wednesday by the Delaware Senate.

Senate Bill 173 seeks to create the Universal Pre-K Consortium, a group tasked with developing a comprehensive plan for the possible roll out of a mixed-delivery, non-compulsory public early education program for 4-year-olds.

“Research clearly shows that toddlers who receive developmentally-appropriate instruction and enrichment in a structured setting tend to do better in kindergarten, elementary school, and beyond, whereas those who enter school with deficits often never make up the ground they’ve lost,” said prime sponsor and Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Laura Sturgeon, D-Brandywine.

“Delaware, however, ranks 38th in the nation for pre-K access with half of our 3-and 4-year-olds not receiving any pre-K instruction whatsoever,” she said. “Everyone agrees that has to change but there are many ideas about how we get there. This is one concept I think is worth exploring, which is why I want to bring all the relevant agencies and advocacy groups together to chart a path forward.”

Delaware currently provides subsidies that helps children from low-income families pay for early education and after-school care from Head Start programs and childcare providers that offer those services.  The Universal Pre-K Consortium would explore ways to expand that financial support and encourage more providers and districts to offer those services.

SB 173 would establish a 13-member working group to weigh the advantages and roadblocks to creating such a system. The Consortium would include Democrats and Republicans from both chambers of the General Assembly, two cabinet-level officials from the Carney Administration, leaders from two nonprofit groups focused on early childhood education and the president of the Delaware State Education Association.

The group would begin meeting in January 2020 and issue a final report by the end of January 2021.

SB 173, which passed the Senate by a unanimous vote, now heads to the House for final consideration.