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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A $4.3 million expansion of pre-kindergarten has been approved by the Maryland General Assembly.

The Senate voted 46-1 for the bill Friday.

The measure now goes to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who proposed the bill. It will enroll an additional 1,600 children around the state for children whose families make up to 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

It also creates a pre-K expansion fund for business and philanthropic entities to contribute money to support future expansion.

The O'Malley administration says it represents a step toward expanding pre-K to all Maryland children. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running for governor, wants to have universal pre-K in the state by 2018. His opponents for the Democratic nomination, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Delegate Heather Mizeur, also want to expand pre-K.

GOVERNOR O'MALLEY'S STATEMENT:

"Over the last seven years, we've made the better choice to to strengthen and grow our middle class by expanding access to high-quality education for Maryland families -- and we've seen better results: today we have made the greatest gains in low income student achievement nationwide. With the passage of this bill by the General Assembly, we'll ensure that every child in our State has the resources they need to compete not just nationally, but globally as well."

LT. GOVERNOR BROWN'S STATEMENT:

"The final passage of our pre-kindergarten expansion is a major victory for Maryland's families. I led the effort to pass this Administration bill because if we're going to expand opportunities to more Marylanders, we need to start with our children. By enrolling an additional 1,600 kids in high quality pre-K, we're helping more of our students climb the ladder of opportunity towards success and continuing to close our state's achievement gap. We still have a lot of work to do in order to achieve universal, voluntary pre-K for all Maryland four year olds, but today we took a meaningful step forward. I want to thank Senate President Miller, Senator King, Senator Ferguson and Senator McFadden and Speaker Busch, Delegate Rosenberg, Chairwoman Hixson, and Delegate Kaiser, along with all of the advocates and supporters, for all their hard work on this legislation."

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