ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A new measure calls for a multimillion dollar expansion of the state’s pre-K program. State lawmakers say they want more of the youngest students in class sooner. But how much will it cost?

Gigi Barnett has the details.

State lawmakers say they want all 4-year-olds in the state to attend half day pre-K by 2018. It’s an ambitious goal. That’s why they’re looking to expand the pre-K program again.

Kissing your brain means job well done in Mary Cox’s pre-K classroom at Georgetown East Elementary School in Annapolis.

This is a second career for her, one she almost missed until a medical discharge from the Navy led Cox to the classroom filled with 4-year-olds.

“They’re eager,” Cox said. “The little ones are just, they’re like a sponge. They suck it all in. Everything’s a game for them.”

The state calls this kind of early learning a priority.

Maryland lawmakers are poised to shell out a little more than $4 million next school year to expand the pre-K program.

“Pre-K, they need to do it. Because these kids learn so much in pre-K, even if it’s just sitting, the rules and routines and the ABCs and letters. It gives them such an advantage when they go to kindergarten,” Cox said.

And beyond, according to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who’s backing the move to add more classes.

“The likelihood of them succeeding in school, the likelihood that they’ll have more career options increases exponentially,” Lt. Gov. Brown said. “Studies have shown this.”

Last school year, about 26,000 4-year olds were enrolled in pre-K statewide. Under the expansion, the state would add at least 1,600 more seats.

“We estimate that there are 26,000 more 4-year-olds who don’t have access. There’s a big difference when a child starts kindergarten with a 3,000 word vocabulary or an 8,000 word vocabulary,” Lt. Gov. Brown said.

This is not the first time that the state has expanded this program. Back in 2007, they required districts to add more classes that would include low-income and homeless 4-year-olds.

Taxpayers wouldn’t be the only ones footing the bill for pre-K. The state is asking for dollars from private businesses and philanthropic agencies as well.

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