A bill under consideration in the Legislature provides Maine with a promising opportunity to improve its workforce in the years to come. L.D. 1760, An Act To Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Readiness, proposes to create community early care and education programs that will help our youngest learners learn, grow and thrive. This bill will help Maine families, children and educators while boosting our state’s economy and employers by strengthening Maine’s workforce.

I am a member of the Maine Early Learning Investment Group, a group of business leaders who believe the surest way to improve student achievement and the quality of Maine’s workforce is to invest in the healthy development of Maine’s youngest children and their families. Members of our group are concerned about numerous business challenges that include finding skilled employees, finding customers who can afford goods and services and operating in an environment that spurs innovation and economic vitality.

Research has repeatedly shown that one root cause of these challenges lies in children’s access to a strong start that prepares them for success in school and life. Numerous studies validate the important role high-quality child care can play in shaping a child’s early experiences in ways that can positively affect that child in the long run. A child’s early experiences – especially those in the first five years of life – can be a major predictor of the contribution our youngest Maine citizens will make when they become adults.

The urgency of ensuring access to high-quality early childhood programs in our state cannot be overstated. Early care and education is also a fundamental component of business infrastructure. A parent distracted by child-care concerns will have trouble staying focused at work. That understandable loss of focus harms a business’ productivity, as well as the parent’s own career prospects.

And this problem is a big one in Maine, where 73 percent of children under age 6 have all available parents in the workforce. That figure translates to approximately 54,000 children who need child care, according to the Maine Children’s Alliance.

Currently, where a family lives greatly determines the extent to which they can find quality care and education for their children. L.D. 1760 provides opportunities for individual communities to develop plans that meet the unique needs of their parents and children. This will help thousands of Maine working families have a better shot at finding a workable solution.

High-quality early care and education is much more than a safe place for children to be when their parents are at work, however. It is also where many kids, especially those who are at-risk, have their best opportunity to build a solid foundation for learning and social-emotional development.

Solving these challenges requires the coordinated approach to support children, families and early educators that L.D. 1760 outlines.

Helping families and children is a package deal. And, when children and families thrive, the economy thrives. The two-generational approach in L.D. 1760 that helps adults work and promotes healthy social-emotional and cognitive child development can produce transformational results for our children and our parents.

By design, L.D. 1760 is innovative in its community-based approach, incorporating different models that provide an effective framework to guide strategies that will create a strong and balanced early care and education system. The support it includes for early educators is also key.

L.D. 1760 will help kids succeed in school and become successful adults. It will also improve family financial stability by allowing parents to enter the workforce or enhance workforce skills.

My fellow Maine Early Learning Investment Group members and I urge strong support for L.D. 1760 so we can continue to construct a unified and responsive early care and education system that will help Maine’s families, communities, employers and economy thrive.


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