Recognizing that the early years are the most critical period for brain development and set the foundation for lifelong learning and achievement, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future emphasizes equitable early education opportunities that prepare all children for school and overall success. Investment in high-quality early childhood education and learning experiences will mean more equitable opportunities for children across the state to succeed as they begin their school careers. With studies proving the academic benefits of pre-kindergarten, the Blueprint expands full-day pre-k access so that all children are ready to learn and excel in kindergarten. The legislation also increases the number of Judy Centers and family support centers, and increases the number of educators in early childhood as well as high-quality early care and learning experiences.
The Blueprint expands Judy Centers throughout Maryland and includes nine additional Judy Centers over the next 5 fiscal years and 18 over the following five fiscal years.
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MSDE will establish a sliding scale to determine the share that a family at different income levels would have to pay for the aforementioned Pre-K programs. Over its 10-year implementation, the Blueprint will deliver a significant expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten. The program will be voluntary and free to all three- and four-year-olds from families with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL; the FPL is $26,200 for a family of four), and to all four-year-olds from families with incomes between 300% and 600% of the FPL, using a sliding scale. Families would pay a portion of the cost for four-year-olds up to 600% of the FPL.
In addition to resources within schools, the Blueprint also establishes several programs within the Office of Child Care at MSDE, including a child care credentialing program to allow individuals to obtain a staff credential through the Department and assist child care programs with materials/infrastructure to improve their programs.
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