I am excited to learn that RSU 24 will receive funds to begin its own public pre-kindergarten program. With this funding, a partnership in place with Downeast Community Partners to implement the programming and space for pre-K programs now available in the district’s elementary schools, more kids can receive early learning experiences, which set them up to succeed throughout school and in life. That’s good for our kids, our communities and our economic future.
As a lifelong educator and small business owner, I have long advocated for high-quality early learning for all Maine kids. When I served as chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee, I became a champion of early education due to the positive outcomes these programs can create. Just learning to play well with others or to “use your words” can make all the difference for children’s later success. Multiple studies show that early education helps kids get a strong start. Kids who have a strong start are more likely to do well in all grades, complete high school, and many go on to postsecondary education and training. This helps Maine achieve our education attainment goal that 60 percent of adults will hold a postsecondary credential of value.
Today, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the reasons for supporting high-quality early learning have multiplied. Some have been magnified — the child-care crisis being one example. Limited access to early learning programs, including public pre-K, is also a barrier to employment for many parents. That barrier contributes to the serious labor shortage my local business and employers across Maine are experiencing.
High-quality public pre-K programs are now a major part of the solution to getting people back to work, thereby addressing the current workforce shortage and boosting Maine’s economy and pandemic recovery in the short term. High-quality early learning also supports future workforce development and long-term economic growth as these young learners succeed throughout their lives.
Hats off to RSU 24 as it begins its own public pre-K program.