Chang-Díaz files bill for universal preschool

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz announced a bill to implement universal preschool last month.

“An Act Relative to Universal Pre-K Access” would create universal access to pre-school education for 3- and 4-year-olds, through public or private schools. The bill would create state funding following the same formula that already supports local school systems, like Boston Public Schools, and it would require some financial contribution from municipalities.

Chang-Díaz told the Gazette that municipalities would have to decide whether they want to commit to the plan.

“It’s not mandated to individual towns,” she said. “They would apply with [an implementation] plan to the state, and the state would decide if the plan is feasible and high-quality.”

Chang-Díaz estimated, based on 2010 U.S. Census data, that there are already 150,000 eligible children enrolled in pre-K education in the state, leaving some 60,000 kids currently unenrolled.

The biggest hurdle to creating universal pre-K education is getting it into law and finding funding, Chang-Díaz said.

“If that were to happen very quickly, the bill lays out a five-year plan. The highest need areas would get highest priority,” she said. But “this is only going to happen as fast as people push the state legislature to do it.”

According to state Department of Early Education and Care data provided to the Gazette by Chang-Díaz’s office, low-income children who participate in high-quality early education are 40 percent less likely to be held back or require special education, 30 percent more likely to graduate from high school, and twice as likely to go to college.

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (center) announces her universal preschool legislation at the State House last month. (Courtesy Photo)

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (center) announces her universal preschool legislation at the State House last month. (Courtesy Photo)

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