AUGUSTA, Maine — A new law that expands access to pre-K programs in Maine’s public schools beginning in 2015-16 went into effect Aug. 1, according to the Maine Senate Majority office.
The law outlines a five-year plan to make pre-K programs available in all school districts in the state by the 2018-19 school year.
“Early education is crucial for children both in school and in life, and we are stronger as a community and a state when every child has the opportunity pre-K provides to learn and grow,” said Sen. Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic, a former preschool teacher, in a press release. “Pre-K may not be for every child or every family, but no one should be denied the opportunity because of where they live.”
Currently, 60 percent of Maine school districts offer some form of pre-K, and less than one-third of 4-year-olds are enrolled in a public pre-K program, according to the Senate Majority office.
The new law provides start-up funding for school districts that want to offer a voluntary pre-K program, and will give priority to schools that currently have no such program. The funding is from the state’s share of casino revenues.
“The early years in a child’s life are critical in determining where they end up in life,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, chair of the education committee, in the press release. “Only by investing in early childhood education can we begin to close achievement gaps in our state.”
The law was supported by law enforcement officers, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and educators.
According to a 2011 report by America’s Edge, every $1 invested in early education in Maine generates $1.78 in economic activity, a greater rate of return than investments in farming, forestry, fishing and hunting, transportation, construction, retail trade, wholesale trade, manufacturing, and utilities.
The text of the law can be found at: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=SP0577&item=6&snum=126.