AUGUSTA — The state is launching a new effort to help children from birth to age 5 get ready for school, Education Commissioner Steve Bowen announced Thursday. 

The new interagency “early learning” team is a joint effort by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, Bowen said in his weekly message. 

The new State Agency Interdepartmental Early Learning Team (SAIEL) will “provide a strong governance structure” between the DOE and DHHS and coordinate management of the many early learning programs in both agencies. 

“The intent of the SAIEL is to take a patchwork of early learning and development programs funded through a variety of local, state and federal sources and move them in the same direction toward a uniform standard of quality and transparency,” Bowen said.

Bowen said the group was an outgrowth of Maine failing to make the cut in 2011 for federal Race to the Top grant funds intended to jump-start early childhood programs. At the time, Maine officials vowed to move ahead with the effort locally. 

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