Early Childhood Education

With its commitment to high-quality early education programs, providers, and educators, the Blueprint makes good on its promise of equity for all. I’ve seen the difference a good pre-k program can make for a child’s language skills, social skills, and confidence. The Blueprint makes this great start possible for all children regardless of their family’s socioeconomic status.

— Simran Kishore, Montgomery County

Making School Success a Priority

The Blueprint investment in early childhood education levels the playing field for our youngest learners beginning with those in the most economically challenged communities. The program begins as voluntary and free to all three- and four-year-olds whose families are experiencing poverty, then soon enrolls more students on a sliding scale fee. In 10 years, it’s estimated that 80% of eligible children will be enrolled in publicly funded pre-k. Both the Blueprint and the Built to Learn Act ramp up pre-k by expanding programs and constructing more
pre-k classrooms.

The Blueprint Expands Early Childhood and Family Supports

By prioritizing families and communities, the Blueprint expands programs to help families and their children for the important school years ahead.

Judy Centers  
Judy Centers provide full-day, comprehensive, accredited (or pursuing accreditation) early education programs for children ages birth through kindergarten and family support services. There are Judy Centers at Title l Schools in every county; the Blueprint expands the number of centers to serve more families with more services, including adult education, case management, childcare assistance, developmental, dental, vision, and hearing services, mental health care, nutritional assessments, family supports, parenting classes, and play groups. The Blueprint funds more Judy Centers with 126 new centers between FY 2022 and FY 2030—nine per year in FY 2022–2025 and 18 per year in FY

Patty Centers   
Patty Centers, also called are Family Support Centers, provide parents and guardians of newborns through three-year-olds with supports to help them succeed in parenting, including fulfilling their goals of school, employment, and family well-being. The Blueprint adds three new Patty Centers per year in FY 2022-2029.

Private Providers  
Private providers are expected to meet 30% of the demand for additional slots in the 2021-2022 school year and increase by 5% each year until private providers account for 50% of pre-k slots by the 2025-2026 school year. MSDE can issue a waiver from these requirements if there are too few eligible pre-k providers or all families in the county who want to enroll in pre-k are able to do so.

Blueprint Eligibility and Quality Checks Begin 2025–2026 School Year

Built into the Blueprint pre-k plan are rigorous standards required to be met by both public and private programs, including a publicly available quality rating system of 1–5 by the Maryland EXCELS Program.

Beginning in the 2025-2026 school year, all pre-k teachers must be state certified in early childhood education or hold a bachelor’s degree and be pursuing residency through the Maryland Approved Alternative Preparation Program, which includes early childhood coursework, clinical practice, and evidence of pedagogical content knowledge. Paraeducators must hold a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate or an associate degree. A high school degree is the current qualification for a pre-k aide.

Pre-k programs must:

*A program that rates the quality of childcare and early learning programs that is available to the public.

Access to Pre-K: Tier Structure

As more pre-k programs become available to students, the tier structure prioritizes eligibility based on student age and family income. In 10 years, it’s estimated that 80% of eligible children will be enrolled in a publicly funded pre-k.

The department may exclude by annual waiver Tier I children who are three years old in a county until the 2029-2030 school year. The department may exclude by annual waiver Tier I children who are 4 years old in a county until the 2026-2027 school year.

NEW: As of July 1, 2021

*Unless school officials, including mental health professionals, determine there is an imminent threat of serious harm to others that cannot be reduced or eliminated through interventions and supports.

Important Dates

By December 1, 2021 (and annually after 2021) county boards of education must provide MSDE and the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB):