Five Members in Maine Testify in Support of Early Childhood Education Funding
Members voiced their support for continued and increased investments in early childhood education programs
On Thursday, February 18, five prominent Maine community leaders, as members of Council for a Strong America, testified before a joint hearing of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs and the Health and Human Services Committees. They voiced their support for continued and increased investments in early childhood education programs in the state’s biennial budget. The members who testified were Fight Crime: Invest in Kids member Augusta Chief of Police Jared Mills, Mission: Readiness members Major General (Ret.) Earl Adams, U.S. Army, and Major General (Ret.) Bill Libby, U.S. Army, and ReadyNation members Ben Gilman, General Counsel for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Jason Judd, Executive Director of Educate Maine.
Augusta Chief of Police Jared Mills, a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, explained that a holistic crime prevention strategy must include education and early childhood investments. He addressed the committee members: “Many of you are well aware of the research that tells us about what a critical time the first five years of life is for a child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. What is equally important, but less well known, is that quality early learning programs can also significantly reduce the chances of a child growing up to become a criminal.” He cited a study of the Chicago Child-Parents Centers showing that kids who did not receive quality early learning programs were 70 percent more likely to have been arrested for a violent crime by age 18.
Chief Jared Mills at an early care center, giving a young boy a high-five
Major General (Ret.) Earl Adams, U.S. Army, and Major General (Ret.) Bill Libby, U.S. Army, presented joint testimony as members of Mission: Readiness, as Maine’s former Adjutant Generals and Commissioners of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, and as fathers, grandfathers, and active community members. The generals expressed their grave concern that “today, nearly 70 percent of young Mainers do not meet the minimum standards required for military service, even if they wanted to serve,” adding, “This fact holds back our military readiness… hurts almost every other economic sector and dampens Maine’s future prosperity.” The way forward, Gen. Adams and Gen. Libby explained, is through greater public investments that help at-risk children cultivate the skills they need to succeed later in life, including a career in the military should they choose that path.
Major General Bill Libby, speaking at a press event on behalf of Mission: Readiness
Major General Earl Adams reading to PreK students in Bangor
Ben Gilman, General Counsel for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and a member of ReadyNation, laid out the economic case for early education funding. “Affordable, quality early childhood education gives working parents the peace of mind about their children and their children’s care,” he said. That peace of mind will help the workforce continue to expand. And, with high-quality early learning programs so effective at improving educational attainment, he continued, “It’s critical that we don’t wait until K-12 to begin developing in students the skills they’ll need to move on to higher education and, later, to thrive in a competitive workforce.”
Ben Gilman with his wife Jess and three of their four kids
Finally, Jason Judd, Executive Director of Educate Maine, a co-leader of the MaineSpark Coalition and a member of ReadyNation, provided testimony too, highlighting in particular the Coalition’s education attainment goal that 60 percent of Maine adults should have a credential of value by 2025. That goal, he explained, must start with high-quality early learning investments. His testimony stated that the research “is undeniable: the earliest years are critical for children’s academic and social-emotional development. Investments now will pay off long into the future while also meeting a critical short-term need: to promote full participation in our workforce.”