Members testify in favor of a proposal to increase high-quality child care across Maine
Maine leaders testified in favor of a legislative proposal seeking to improve the quality of and access to child care in Maine
Recently, members of ReadyNation, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, and Mission: Readiness testified in favor of a legislative proposal seeking to improve the quality of and access to child care in Maine. Our members’ efforts helped secure a 10-1 vote in favor of this priority legislation on May 26th.
The proposal, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, is titled “An Act to Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Success.” The proposal establishes the “Help Me Grow” model in Maine, which is a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated system of early identification and referral to promote and support healthy development for Maine’s youngest children. The model also proposes to build up to five additional regional child care programs based on a proven pilot model in Skowhegan. These programs are high-quality, community-based early care and education partnerships designed to achieve a number of goals. They improve training for the early childhood workforce. They also establish the foundation to create an early childhood system with regional coordination and “no wrong door” for families to access services. Finally, they improve data collection to monitor progress, analyze impact, and support continuous improvements.
ReadyNation member Ben Gilman, Legal Counsel at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, testified, “Education is a critical investment in Maine people, and in our economy, and should be treated as such through a coordinated approach, starting with our youngest children. High-quality early learning, like that proposed here in LD 1712, helps Maine’s youngest learners build the social, emotional and cognitive foundations they need to arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. This proposal is an important first step and merits state investments.”
ReadyNation member Chris Emmons, retired 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 23 percent of kids in rural Maine live in poverty and that 26 percent of Maine’s rural children live in “child care deserts,” where at least three times more kids are eligible for child care than there are open slots. “This report calls on policymakers to help ensure a strong Maine future by supporting investments to increase access to and quality of early care and education for rural children,” he said. “As a banker who has dedicated my professional life to improving Maine’s economic future, I agree.”
ReadyNation member Jim Clair, CEO of CSS Health and a former Chair of Educare Central Maine, shared with legislators the outcomes of research based on the Elevate Skowhegan pilot program. “This program’s positive results show us why high-quality child care is important today and for our future. And, most importantly, they provide us with a successful model for how this critically important work can be replicated across our state,” he said. “Now is the time for state policymakers to act on this knowledge and remove the barriers that are holding back too many children, families and businesses.”
Jeremey Fischer, who is both a ReadyNation member and a former legislator who served as the House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, also spoke of the tremendous outcomes of the Elevate Skowhegan model and asked the Committee to expand this model to other regions of Maine. “Elevate Skowhegan has been a huge success. It has nurtured strong collaborations between parents and early childhood educators, and the professionals who mentor, coach, and train them,” he said. “LD 1712 would expand pilot projects like Elevate Skowhegan to 5 more Maine communities. It provides a tremendous opportunity to build on the success of this proven model. This will inure to the benefit of Maine’s businesses, our workforce, our families, our communities and–most importantly–our children.”
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids member Augusta Chief of Police Jared Mills 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. “Today I’m here to tell you that high-quality early learning programs are also a great crime reduction strategy,” he said.
Mission: Readiness member Major General (Ret.) Earl Adams, U.S. Army shared additional research with the HHS Committee members explaining the positive educational outcomes for children who experience high-quality early learning programs. “The research is clear that investing in high-quality early care and education helps young children develop the skills they need to finish high school and go on to a successful career,” he said.
Maine members will continue to advocate for the passage and funding of this proposal as it makes its way through the Maine House of Representatives, the Maine Senate and the appropriations process.