Law expanding access to pre-K in effect Aug. 1

Posted July 29, 2014, at 10:12 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A new law that expands access to pre-Kindergarten programs in Maine goes into effect on Friday, according to the Maine Senate Majority Office.

“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 state 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, only 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. The funding is from the state’s share of casino revenues.

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“When we make preschool available for more children, more kids will be ready when they get to Kindergarten,” said state Sen. Chris Johnson of Somerville, who serves on the Education Committee in the Legislature, in the press release. “This is one more step toward that important goal.”

The law was supported by law enforcement officers, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and educators.

The early years in a child’s life are critical in determining where they end up in life,” said state Sen. Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, the Senate 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.”

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 here.

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