Posted: March 27, 2014 | Front Page, Senator Alfond, Senator Johnson, Senator Millett, Senator Vitelli

Measure would have developed comprehensive early childhood plan

AUGUSTA – In a 22-13 vote, the Senate failed to secure the necessary two-thirds, 24 votes to override Governor LePage’s veto of a measure to support early childhood education and empower the Maine Children’s Growth Council to develop a statewide plan.

“Today’s vote is incredibly disappointing and frustrating for young families, educators, and business people alike,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland, the bill’s sponsor. “It’s time to have one plan, one blueprint for our young children and their families.”

President Alfond’s bill would have strengthened the important work of the Maine Children’s Growth Council (MCGC) by changing many appointees and suggesting new responsibilities. The bill also would have given the MCGC the directive and requirement to develop a long-term plan for an early childhood system in Maine.

“It’s a very different world for our children and grandchildren. And in a changing world, we must keep making improvements for children and their families,” said Democratic Senator Chris Johnson of Somerville who serves on the Education and Cultural Affairs committee. “The MCGC plays a vital role in the health and well being of our youngest citizens, yet, the Chief Executive has all but de-funded it. MCGC needs to be strengthened and empowered. Its efforts have been marginalized–and now, Maine’s families are paying the price.”

Implementing a comprehensive early childhood education system would reap significant dividends for Maine’s economy. According to the 2013 Maine KIDS COUNT report, every dollar invested in early care and education generates nearly two dollars in local spending—a better return than the farming, logging, fishing, hunting, transportation, construction, and manufacturing industries.

“Study after study illustrates the importance and value of investing in early childhood,” said Democratic Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic, who is a former Head Start teacher. “It’s crucial in preparing our youngest to be ready to go, it gives students a better chance to be proficient at reading and math, and it helps with degree completion.”

Vitelli added, “Sustaining this veto sends the wrong message to parents, early childhood advocates, and businesses. Parents, educators, and business leaders alike agree that implementing a comprehensive early childhood education system would reap significant dividends for Maine’s economy.”

In his 2011 veto letter of a bill aimed at establishing a unified early childhood education system in Maine, Governor LePage noted that the Maine Children’s Growth Council should be the vehicle for work regarding early childhood education.

“It is very confusing that Governor LePage vetoed a bill that was a direct response to what he said he wanted,” said Democratic Senator Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, who serves as the Chair of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “I am disappointed that politics got in the way of our young childrens’ futures.”

The bill, LD 1449, “An Act To Amend the Composition and Duties of the Maine Children’s Growth Council,  is now dead.