Business, Military, and Law Enforcement Leaders Speak to Policymakers at the Maine Children’s Caucus
Council for a Strong America Maine leaders share how investing in high-quality early care and education can improve community safety, national security, our workforce and economy
Recently, Council for a Strong America organized a panel of law enforcement leaders, a retired military leader and a business leader to speak to policymakers at the Maine Children’s Caucus in the State House explaining how greater investments in child care, public pre-K, Head Start, and home visiting programs help children, their families, our communities, and all of Maine.
Kicking off the panel presentation was ReadyNation member Ben Gilman, an attorney with Drummond Woodsum and Chair of the Maine Children’s Trust. Mr. Gilman told the 45 legislators at the Children’s Caucus session, “we are all here today to tell you that a key answer to the needs of the future workforce is investing in high-quality early learning programs. Early learning programs include child care, pre-K, Head Start/Early Head Start, and home visiting. I want to focus in on child care, in large part, because Maine’s child care industry is in crisis and on the verge of imploding. One of the many lessons learned during the pandemic is that businesses need reliable child care. Without it, their employees who are parents and sometimes grandparents can’t work. That makes helping fix employees’ barriers to high-quality child care a priority issue for business leaders.”
Mission: Readiness member Brigadier General (Ret.) Dwaine Drummond made the national security case for investing in early care and education for the policymakers saying, “if you remember nothing else from our conversation today – I hope you will remember one number: 77. The U.S. Department of Defense reports that 77 percent of 17- to 24-year-old Americans are ineligible to serve in our military…Several factors are contributing to the root causes of ineligibility and have grown worse over this past decade. The factors include: lack of physical fitness, lack of educational attainment, substance abuse, and involvement in crime - often drug-related. And often it’s a combination of these disqualifiers…When we recognize that 77 percent of young Americans cannot qualify for military service, I am concerned about our nation having the number of people and the quality of minds that we will need to secure our future. And I note, this is both in the military, as well as other career fields. The best way to address these disqualifiers is early intervention and support.”
One law enforcement panelist explained to policymakers how early education and care program can help reduce long-term crime. Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry, a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids for 15 years, shared, “we can save lives, hardship, and money by investing in programs that can keep children from growing up to become criminals in the first place. Today we are here to tell you that high-quality early learning programs are also a great crime reduction strategy.”
Auburn Chief of Police Jason Moen, who has been a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids for 12 years, spoke about how high-quality early learning programs can positively affect children’s behavior. “Several studies have shown fewer behavioral problems for kids who had access to these programs, compared to kids who didn’t have pre-K and high-quality child care. We know from the research, as well as our own professional experiences, that a child who doesn’t have behavioral issues as a youngster is more likely to avoid brushes with the law as he or she grows up,“ Chief Moen said. “The bottom line is that we’ve seen time and time again that by providing access to high-quality early education for kids today, we can see less crime and incarceration in the future. That means safer communities with more children who grow up to have a real opportunity at a violence-free and crime-free life.”