The President’s State of the Union Address featured several policy subjects that are currently topics of debate in Maryland, including expanding prekindergarten. The O’Malley Administration introduced legislation to expand Pre-K offerings in HB297, the Prekindergarten Expansion Act of 2014. While the legislation sets for a state-funded pilot program, MACo is watching the debate as part of a potential for a permanent expansion of pre-kindergarten that could increase funding needs for local school boards.
As described in previous posts on Conduit Street, the Governor’s legislation authorizes the Maryland State Department of Education to administer grants to private, non-public, and public prekindergartens that serve economically disadvantaged children. The bill defines economically disadvantaged as children from families whose income is no more than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines. The 300% limit raises the current income cap for qualification for prekindergarten services, which is 185%, and extending free pre-K offerings to about 1,600 more children.
The President shared a goal of universal pre-K in his state of the union. As described by the U.S. Department of Education,
President Obama laid out his top priorities rooted in three key principles: opportunity, action, and optimism. Among the education topics discussed, the President recommitted to making high-quality pre-K available to every four-year-old, connecting 99 percent of students to high-speed broadband over the next four years, and redesigning high schools to offer more real-world education and hands-on training.
For the excerpts of the President’s speech related to education, see the U.S. Department of Education’s blog Homeroom.