By Jessica Kartalija

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A push to make pre-K more accessible to Maryland children is well underway. Senate lawmakers have already voted in favor of a plan to expand the program.

Jessica Kartalija reports now Governor Martin O’Malley is stressing the importance of pre-K to those directly affected.

Pre-K children had an impromptu jam session with Governor Martin O’Malley at Downtown Baltimore Child Care.

“My idea is that every child in Maryland should be able to go to pre-K,” he said.

Right now, Maryland public schools are required to offer pre-K to economically disadvantaged 4-year-olds under governor-sponsored legislation. Grants would be provided to schools to accept more children.

“There is a difference between a child who starts kindergarten with a 3,000 word vocabulary and an 8,000 word vocabulary and that difference is pre-K,” said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

State officials hope the funding will help an additional 1,600 children across the state. Providers could also apply to have half-day programs expanded to full-day pre-K.

“From 60 percent, now we’re up to 83 percent entering kindergarten ready to learn. But with full-day pre-K, that could be 100 percent,” said O’Malley.

During the last school year, more than 26,000 4-year-olds were enrolled in pre-K programs.

“We have been participating and advocating for this all along,” said Margo Sipes.

The governor has already set aside $4.3 million in next year’s budget to cover the cost of pre-K expansion.

Pre-K has been a hot topic among the three Democratic candidates for governor. They all agree, however, on expanding the program to include more children.

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