PRE-K MEASURE RECEIVES STRONG SUPPORT IN SENATE

Posted: April 10, 2014 | Front Page, Senator Millett, Senator Vitelli
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Measure strongly endorsed by law enforcement, educators, neuroscientists, and business community  

AUGUSTA—In a 26-9 vote, the Senate gave initial approval to a bill to expand early childhood education in Maine.

“I like to say that everything I need to know in life I learned in pre-K,” said Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic, a former preschool teacher. “What we learn early in our lives contributes directly to our abilities as adults, shapes our opportunities, and influences our later success. We are stronger as a community and a state when we give every child a greater opportunity to succeed. Pre-K is that opportunity.”

The measure is supported by a law enforcement officers, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and educators.

At a press conference in support of the bill, 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.

“Our education, social service, law enforcement, military, and business leaders are urging us to invest in pre-K programs,” said Senator Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, the Senate chair of the Education Committee. “Our schools are ready, our teachers are ready, and the Department of Education is ready. Now is the time for action.”

According to a 2011 report by America’s Edge , every $1 invested in early education in Maine generates $1.78 in economic activity, a greater rate of return than investments in farming, forestry, fishing and hunting, transportation, construction, retail trade, wholesale trade, manufacturing, and utilities.

In an op-ed in support of the bill, Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and Chamber Board Member Steve Rich wrote, “Investment in early childhood is real economic development. It is not just a social and moral imperative; it is an economic imperative.”

The measure makes casino revenues available as start up funding to school districts who want to offer a voluntary pre-K program and establishes a stakeholder group to develop quality standards, best practices, and common assessments.

 

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.

The bill, LD 1530, “An Act To Establish a Process for the Implementation of Universal Voluntary Prekindergarten Education,” faces further votes in the House and the Senate.

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