Posted: March 04, 2014 | Front Page, Senator Millett, Senator Vitelli

Measure restores $2 million previously cut from Head Start programs

AUGUSTA—In a 27-7 vote, the Senate approved a measure to restore $2 million in funding for Head Start programs in Maine.

“We cannot stop investing in our children. Our kids–our future—are too important,” said Senator Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, the Senate Chair of the Education Committee. “Head Start has a lasting positive impact on our children and their families. It is a vital program that needs our support.”

Investment in early childhood education has shown to have the highest return on investment over the long term. According to findings from national economic studies, investing in high quality care and education starting at birth yields a return on investment of $4-$16 for every $1 invested–as measured by greater success in school, reduced remedial education costs in our K-12 system, improved earnings, and avoided or greatly reduced welfare and crime costs.

“In my early career, I was a Head Start teacher and saw firsthand the benefits of early childhood education,” said Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic. “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.”

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.

The measure, LD 1682, “An Act To Preserve Head Start and Child Care Services,” builds on funding restored by the Legislature for fiscal year 2014 by providing $2 million for Head Start, establishes a funding formula for distributing those funds, and draws down $3 million from the federal Child Care Development Fund to provide childcare vouchers to low-income families.

The bill faces further votes in the Senate and the House.