Sen. Vitelli bill to expand access to child care and early education in Maine signed into law
AUGUSTA – A bill from Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, to improve child care in Maine has become law. LD 1799, “An Act to Expand Maine’s High-quality Early Learning and Care for Children by Increasing Public Preschool Opportunities in Communities,” was passed by the Maine Senate on July 26 and signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills on July 27.
“As a former preschool teacher, it was incredibly gratifying to work on this bill and see it signed into law. We’ve had real success in the Bath area with our mixed-delivery preschool program, and I believe this is the kind of model that could work for the rest of Maine, too. Our kids deserve a solid start in life, and Maine families deserve the support that quality, full-time preschool provides,” said Sen. Vitelli. “I want to thank everyone who shared their expertise to help shape this bill and my fellow legislators for their strong support.”
LD 1799 moves Maine toward establishing an equitable, mixed-delivery public preschool system that provides universal access for preschool-aged children and their families in accordance with the following timeline: 60% by the 2024-2025 school year; 80% by the 2025-2026 school year; and 100% by the 2026-2027 school year. Currently, 79% of Maine school districts offer public preschool. However, less than 50% of 4-year-olds are part of these programs because many programs are part-time, which makes it difficult for working parents to enroll their children.
The bill is based on a model that has been successful in the Midcoast: Bath and Brunswick already offer high-quality preschool in multiple places — public schools, the local YMCA and private child care facilities. This is a unified model that allows families to decide where it’s best for their child to learn.
“Our public pre-K program employs state-certified teachers and provides children with learning opportunities that prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. Additionally, we provide all children with weekly swim lessons, music classes, yoga, gymnastics and more through the resources we have available as a community-centered facility,” said Annie Colaluca, the Preschool Director for the Bath Area Family YMCA, in testimony supporting the bill. “As Maine expands public pre-K availability, we must continue to lift up the mixed delivery model as a critical component of supporting working families with young children.”
Under statute, the Commissioner of Education is scheduled to make their first report to legislators on the Depart of Education’s initiatives, incentives and progress to expand public preschool programs by Feb. 15, 2024.