Senate sends Breen bill to support early childhood educators to the governor’s desk

Posted: June 26, 2018 | Senator Breen

AUGUSTA — On Monday, the Maine Senate enacted a bill from Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, to provide child care providers and preschool teachers with the resources and support children struggling with challenging behaviors.

“If Maine’s young children have tools and skills to better manage their behaviors early on, they are better equipped to succeed in school and enter the workforce,” said Sen. Cathy Breen. “With more children showing persistent challenging behaviors in early childhood programs, we need to make sure our early childhood teachers have the support they need to care for every child. This program has already shown progress in Washington County and around the country.  It’s time to see what it can do for all Maine children.”

The bill — LD 1321, “An Act to Promote Social and Emotional Learning and Development in Early Childhood” — creates the Early Childhood Consultation Program pilot project, training a group of behavior experts available to assist teachers and child care providers with these issues before they result in expulsion. Requests for consultation are entirely voluntary and are designed to help keep children in a learning environment.

Data show that more and more children are coming to preschool with persistent challenging behaviors — such as withdrawal from their teachers and peers or kicking, biting or shoving — that prevent them from participating in their education. More than half of preschool teachers report that their classrooms have been negatively impacted by a student’s challenging behavior.  

The bill received support during its public hearing from the Maine Children’s Growth Council, Bath Police Chief Michael Field, the Maine School Management Association, and many others.  Pam Gerbi, representing the United Way, said “If we do nothing now in Maine to change the current environments in our early care settings, more children will struggle early on, perhaps be suspended or expelled from their educational setting, and then be more likely to struggle when they arrive in kindergarten, resulting in higher risk for long-term problems in school and in their employment.”

LD 1321 will now head to the governor, who has 10 days to sign it, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature