It is a sad fact that as a country, we spend the fewest dollars per capita on early childhood education of any developed nation. Even here at home in Connecticut, our state has the largest achievement gap in the country. The U.S. Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) estimates that children of low-income families in Connecticut are about three grade levels behind everyone else in math and reading. This statistic is both disheartening and unacceptable.
We see only one solution to this problem - ensure that each child has access to high quality early educational programs from the moment they are born. Studies show that waiting until a child enters kindergarten is simply too late. We are calling on Connecticut to fund quality birth-to-5 programs and build an infrastructure to support early learning so that we can break the mold of playing catch up, and fix the learning deficits of our children who arrive at kindergarten unprepared to succeed.
To do our part, the Friends Center for Children is opening a new building that will become home to 78 children and their families. With an extreme shortage of quality early childhood options for children in the New Haven area, more than four years ago we began the necessary steps to expand our highly-regarded and nationally accredited early childhood education program.
Today marks an exciting day in our history, as we cut the ribbon to officially open our new center.
Our newly constructed building shares the property with the New Haven Friends Meeting in Fair Haven and has a strong environmental focus. Many of the materials used to create our space are locally manufactured and/or harvested. Each classroom features floor t ceiling windows, providing plenty of natural light, natural ventilation and direct access to the playgrounds and parkland on the campus. An exciting new feature is our rooftop garden, where children, parents and teachers alike will be able to enjoy fresh air and cultivate our own fruits and vegetables. Our new roof will feature a geothermal, radiant slab to keep the classroom floors warm, and we will have a rainwater harvesting station outside on the premises. The new center operates as a co-op with heavy parental involvement, which further highlights our strong community aspect to learning.
We know that Connecticut can turn our struggling educational system around if we build it from the ground up. We invite you to come visit our center at 227 East Grand Avenue in the Fair Haven Heights section of New Haven. If you are unable to engage with us in person, follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter, and continue to connect with us here.