Members in Maine Offer Testimony to Strengthen Child Care Sector
ReadyNation and Fight Crime: Invest In Kids members testified in favor of a legislative proposal seeking to strengthen Maine’s child care workforce
Recently, ReadyNation and Fight Crime: Invest In Kids members testified in favor of a legislative proposal seeking to strengthen Maine’s child care workforce.
The proposal, sponsored by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, is titled “An Act to Build a Child Care System by Recruiting and Retaining Maine’s Early Childhood Educators Workforce.” The proposal includes wage stipends for current child care providers, as well as apprenticeships and scholarships to help attract more people into the child care field. It also increases professional development and higher education opportunities for current child care providers. In addition, the proposal creates important data collection and reporting requirements.
ReadyNation member Ben Gilman, Legal Counsel at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, kicked off the public hearing and set the stage, “One of the pandemic’s many lessons is that accessible, affordable, high-quality child care is critically important—especially to Maine’s business community,” he said. “If workers can’t work because they lack child care, that’s a barrier to each business’ ability to operate.”
ReadyNation member Steve deCastro, CEO of Gorham Saving Bank, shared with legislators Council for a Strong America’s recent report on the child care challenges in rural Maine. The report shows that nearly a quarter—23 percent—of kids in rural Maine live in poverty and that 26 percent of Maine’s rural children today live in “child care deserts,” where three times more kids are eligible for child care than there are open slots. “Quality early learning and child care programs significantly help kids build a strong foundation for success throughout school and as adults,” he said. “They are a key part of the solution to increasing both the number of people in Maine’s workforce and their skill level—two of Maine’s biggest economic challenges. These programs can also serve to attract new families to our state, helping to grow Maine’s workforce.”
Fight Crime: Invest In Kids member Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry shared with policymakers the additional community safety benefits of high-quality child care. He cited research showing that, when young children have a solid start in high-quality early care and education programs, those children are much less likely to be involved in crime later in life. “High-quality early learning programs are one of the crime prevention programs in which we should be increasing our investments,” he said.
Jason Judd, Executive Director of Educate Maine and a ReadyNation member, shared the positive economic impact of this proposal, “If every family were able to access the quality child care they need, regardless of where they lived in Maine, we could increase workforce participation across Maine and unleash the potential for true economic growth. We would also have more people choosing to move here specifically to work and raise their children. That’s how important this investment is to children, families, the economy, and workforce attraction,” he said. “Speaker Fecteau’s bill is the beginning of a strategic, targeted investment in quality early care and education for Maine’s youngest people and will shore up the foundation of our economy and pay dividends for years to come.”
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