EARLY CHILDHOOD MEASURE MOVES FORWARD
Measure strongly endorsed by law enforcement, educators, neuroscientists, and business community
AUGUSTA—The state’s Education and Cultural Affairs committee voted 10-2 in support of a bill to expand early childhood education to every school district in Maine.
“A high-quality early education provides equal footing for all of our children, not just those who can afford private pre-K,” said Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic, who presented the measure during the committee’s public hearing. “Many of us agree that access to early childhood education plays a critical role in determining where a person ends up in life. Children who receive quality education at a young age are more successful in school, and life.”
Earlier today, Democratic State Senator Eloise Vitelli, was joined by business leaders, educators, and leaders in law enforcement at a press conference in support of the legislature’s commitment toward a pre-K, early childhood education program in Maine.
Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry noted that we either pay now by investing in early education or we pay up in the long run with rising incarceration costs.
With about 2,000 incarcerated adults, Maine currently spends $161 million per year on prisons. According to the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids report, at-risk youth not involved in a pre-K program were 70% more likely to commit violent crimes by the age of 18. In that report, a national survey among police chiefs reported more than 80% ranked investment in early childhood as the “top strategy” for reducing crime.
“We definitively heard that a robust early education environment is critical for youngsters to have a shot at a good start to life,” said Senator Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, the Senate chair of the Education Committee. “Until we, as lawmakers, make this a front and center issue, it will continue to be ignored. Making this investment now will save us money in the future.”
The bill, LD 1530, “An Act To Establish a Process for the Implementation of Universal Voluntary Prekindergarten Education,” provides a framework for the implementation of voluntary prekindergarten education to all school districts in Maine by the 2017-2018 school year by utilizing the network of public schools and local community providers.
Currently, there are 172 School Administrative Units in the state with elementary schools; however, only 60% of these schools offer some kind of pre-K.
“Smart investments in our kids pay off,” said Representative Bruce MacDonald of Boothbay, the House Chair of the Education Committee. “Providing access to quality early childhood education is the right thing to do – not just for the kids who deserve a fair shot at success but for our communities, our economy, our future workforce and our state’s long-term prosperity.”
Last Thursday, President Obama signed a federal budget which includes an opportunity for Maine to tap the more than $250 million in federal dollars allocated toward the expansion and development of pre-K. The funding is expected to be available by the end of September or October 2014.
The bill will now be sent to the Senate for a vote.