Sen. Goodall’s bill for universal voluntary Pre-K in schools

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

May 19th, 2013 

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Spring in Augusta at Maine's Capitol. photo by Ramona du Houx

A bill to expand early childhood education to every school district in Maine was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall May 17, 2013 in front of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.  Currently, there are 172 School Administrative Units in the state with elementary schools and 60 percent of which offer some kind of pre-k.  Goodall’s measure is designed to provide the momentum for school units to reach 100 percent.

“Early childhood education is one of those issues where there is so much unity about its importance and so much agreement about expanding it,” said Sen.Goodall.  “We know that what gets planned is what gets done. We have the data, we have the support, let’s not delay in providing every child an opportunity for success. ”

During the State of the Union President Barack Obama promoted early childhood education saying the we need to make it a national priority. in Waterville, Maine the federal government helped to fund the Educare, an early childhood education center that is proving to be a model for replication in different regions across the state, and beyond.

LD 1530 “An Act To Establish a Process for the Implementation of Universal Voluntary Prekindergarten Education” provides a framework for the implementation of universal voluntary prekindergarten education to all school districts in Maine by the 2017-2018 school year. It would utilize the network of public schools and local community providers. Additionally, the measure changes the compulsory age of school attendance from the age seven to age five.

Senator Goodall added, “We know that learning begins much earlier than what’s traditionally offered by many of our schools. We would be missing an important opportunity should we ignore this fact.”  

According to neurobiological studies, approximately 85% of a person’s core brain structure is formed by age three. Research shows that positive early childhood experiences create a strong foundation and prepare the brain for all the development that follows.

During the public hearing, Senator Goodall’s bill received broad support from parents, educators and education leaders, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the state’s former Adjutant General, Major General Earl Adams, and leaders in corrections. No one testified in opposition to the bill.

“Once a crime has been committed, lives have been shattered. We can save lives, hardship, and money by investing in early childhood programs that keep children away from being criminals in the first place,” said Col. Mark Westrum, the administrator of Two Bridges Regional Jail.

Investment in early childhood education has shown to have the highest return on investment over the long term. According to findings from national economic studies, investing in high quality care and education starting at birth yields a return on investment of $4-$16 for every $1 invested–as measured by greater success in school, reduced remedial education costs in our K-12 system, improved earnings, and avoided or greatly reduced welfare and crime costs.

“Investment in early education is economic development. Our return on investment is greatest when we start at birth,” said Goodall.

Jessica Laliberte speaking on behalf of the Maine Chamber added, “It’s not just a social and moral imperative, it is an economic imperative.”

Additionally, the bill also directs the Commissioner of Education to establish a stakeholder group comprised of teachers, parents, school administrators and policy experts to develop uniform statewide procedures for screening children and assessing program performance.

The committee will hold a work session on the measure early this week.