BOSTON (AP) — Parents, teachers and community activists are planning to converge on the Statehouse to urge lawmakers to expand access to high quality pre-kindergarten in Massachusetts.

The focus of their attention is a public hearing Wednesday before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education.

The committee is taking up a series of early education bills, including several that would expand or guarantee universal access to pre-kindergarten classes in Massachusetts.

Early education advocates are hoping to persuade lawmakers to back bills that would phase-in the educational programs for 3- and 4-year-olds with a mix of private and public providers.

Supporters say children who participate in these programs are more likely to be better readers and less likely to repeat a grade, be placed in special education classes, or drop out of school.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse are among those planning to attend.

The hearing comes a day after Gov. Charlie Baker toured the Lt. Clayre P. Sullivan School in Holyoke — home to one of 45 new preschool classrooms opening this school year as part of a preschool expansion grant program.

Baker said five cities received a combined total of over $14 million through a federal award to Massachusetts.

The money is paying for a year of preschool for 78 children in Holyoke and 780 children in Boston, Lawrence, Lowell and Springfield. The preschool programs are free for children whose families meet income criteria.

Baker said the program will help identify the best ways to connect local public schools with non-profit pre-school programs.

“The goal is to ensure that more children have access to the educational resources they need to put them on an early path to success, and achieve proficiency in reading by the end of the third grade,” Baker said in a statement.

In July, Baker vetoed nearly $17.6 million in kindergarten expansion grants that had been included in the version of the state budget sent to him by lawmakers — part of $162 million in cuts Baker made to the $38.1 billion spending plan.

The grants are designed to increase access to full-day kindergarten with preference given to school districts in lower-income communities where students average lower scores on standardized tests.

The House and Senate voted unanimously to override Baker’s veto and restore the kindergarten expansion funding.

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Online: http://prek4ma.org/

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