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Bridgeport Annual Children's Report Card: Mostly "Fs"

November 15, 2010

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Bridgeport is Connecticut's largest city, and also one of its poorest, which makes achieving progress for children a huge challenge. And the city is failing its children in 15 of 21 categories, according to the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition's "State of the Child 2010" report.

The Coalition's assistant director, Barbara Edinberg, says that if Connecticut is going to thrive, policymakers must focus on its youngest residents. But in Bridgeport, the number of kids in preschool actually dropped in one year from almost three-quarters to just over two-thirds.

"In Bridgeport - and that's a lot because of access and availability - 67 percent of our children enter kindergarten with pre-school experience. But if you look at neighboring Fairfield, 98 percent of those children enter school with pre-school experience. That's a huge difference."

She says poverty affects all the indicators in Bridgeport, and believes it's critical to at least hold the line on further cuts to services for young children, because the investment pays off.

Edinberg says research shows that every dollar invested in early childhood programs saves six dollars in social costs, reducing the need for special education, keeping young people out of jail and increasing high school graduation rates, and thus reducing poverty.

"You know, you can't go back; and if we lose ground, it's very hard to make that up, especially with young children."

She says the state's economic crisis doesn't bode well for increases in funding, but she takes hope from Governor-elect Dan Malloy's work as mayor of Stamford, where he was a strong supporter of early learning opportunities.

"He will understand how important it is to at least preserve what we have, and if and when the economy turns around, to invest in those areas."

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT