ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—A half day of pre-K for all Maryland 4-year-olds. That’s the state’s five-year goal. But first it starts with an expansion of the current program.

Gigi Barnett has the details.

The state says one way to maintain its high educational ranking is to get as many 4-year-olds into pre-K classes as soon as possible.

Counting animals on the farm. It’s one lesson in a full day of pre-K that gets 4-year-olds at Georgetown East Elementary in Annapolis on the track to kindergarten. The state wants more classes like this one.

Last month, the state rolled out the plan in a $4 million bill.

Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown took the proposal to other lawmakers, asking them to back the proposal.

“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.

The state’s multi-million dollar plan would create about 1,600 additional pre-K slots to the current 26,000 seats statewide.

It’s a gradual expansion that has some lawmakers questioning the future of universal pre-K in Maryland–whether local school boards have the choice to provide it and parents have the choice to accept it.

“My worry is that someday a mom, such as me, will be told by some kind of government entity that her child needs to register for pre-K. And I, for one, would resent that because I think that it should be optional,” said Del. Kathy Afzali, R-Frederick County.

“It’s universal, quality, voluntary pre-K. That is the goal of this bill,” Brown said.

If lawmakers green light the plan, Maryland would need at least 800 more teachers to add on pre-K classes statewide.

“These kids learn so much in pre-K even if it’s just sitting, the rules and routines and then your ABCs, your letters. That gives them a huge advantage for when they go to kindergarten,” said Mary Cox, Georgetown East pre-K teacher.

It would cost lawmakers at least $120 million to provide a half day of school to every 4-year-old in Maryland.

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

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