After school districts braced for more cuts to general purpose aid this spring, the Legislature surprised everyone when members voted not only to restore the slashed funding, but to increase it as well.

As part of the biennial budget, lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee filled in the budget holes left by curtailments and increased GPA to Maine’s school districts by about another $25 million, according to Democratic leaders. Legislators also restored much of the Head Start funding that was cut in the last session, and increased funding to programs at community colleges and other programs for job training in high-skill, high-pay fields.

We’re pleased to see the Legislature taking education seriously and investing in our future leaders and workforce. If Maine fails to adapt and prepare workers for the up-and-coming industries, we’ll have another major issue for job seekers like the thousands who lost their jobs as the mills closed throughout the state.

Investing in education needs to be a priority from the earliest age to even after high school. If Maine wants to compete in a global marketplace, the state needs to ensure its residents have the skills they need.

Investing in Head Start means children from low-income families will not be left behind when they head to kindergarten and beyond. Getting those children the support they need through pre-schooling truly is a head start for kids who may not otherwise get the attention and education they need at home.

Up through high school, children need proper equipment, technology and facilities to aid in their learning processes. Maine’s laptop initiative was groundbreaking ”“ the first in the nation ”“ but it needs continued support as technology changes and progresses. School buildings need to be able to handle today’s technology to work with it, not against it, and many buildings in southern Maine that have not been replaced are dated and in need of renovation.

The job market is also changing. While jobs in health care, technology, biotech, engineering and skilled manufacturing are on the rise and in need of qualified workers, high school graduates are not necessarily training for those jobs. That needs to change. More funding for programs like York County Community College’s precision machining technology will hopefully lead to more skilled workers for the jobs at places like Pratt & Whitney and General Dynamics. But the message to students needs to change as well.

In the last few decades, many parents pushed their children to go to college to get them out of factories and plants and into more lucrative careers that were not so physically demanding. However, the “factories” of today are a far cry from the mills of the early 20th century.

Pratt & Whitney is clean and bright, and workers are safe and supervised to ensure accidents are minimal. Other area manufacturers boast the same sparkling interiors, along with competitive wages and benefits for their employees.

And today, one cannot just walk in the door with a high school diploma. Training is needed for this precision work, and that’s where the state’s community colleges can fill the gap ”“ as long as support from the state continues ”“ from the earliest learners to post-high school.

We’re pleased that the Legislature came together for compromise on the budget and voted to override the governor’s veto. With their votes, they showed us they support education from K-12, before and after, and they can come together for the good of Maine and its people.

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Today’s editorial was written by City Editor Robyn Burnham on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski by calling 282-1535, Ext. 322, or via email at [email protected].