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THE BIG PICTURE

Early childhood education provides students with a solid foundation to build on throughout their education and into adulthood. In order to ensure that all students are prepared to flourish in K-12 education and that achievement gaps are addressed head on, access, enrollment, and family involvement in quality, early childhood education are essential. Over the past 10 years, Maine has made great strides in supporting early care and learning from birth to age 5 and making publicly-funded early education available to more children, but there is more that can be done.

In this report, preschool refers to any early care and education available to 3- and 4-year-olds prior to kindergarten. Pre-K refers to publicly-funded programs for 4-year-olds available in Maine the year before kindergarten. State law requires all school districts to offer a voluntary public Pre-K option in their own buildings and/or in partnership with local child care programs.

PRE-K ACCESS

Public preschool access has increased substantially over the past decade. In Fall 2019, 77% of districts offered a public pre-K program, up from 24% in 2008. Public pre-K is a vital investment in our communities: it increases access to early learning for our youngest citizens and it allows parents to participate more readily in the workforce.

PROPORTION OF MAINE SCHOOL DISTRICTS OFFERING A PUBLIC PRESCHOOL PROGRAM

49%

WHERE WE STARTED (2013)

 
77%

WHERE WE STAND (2019)

 
100%

GOAL (2019)

 

PRE-K PARTICIPATION

Half of all Maine 4-year-olds were enrolled in a public pre-K program in Fall 2019. This represents a total of 6,196 children, up by 4% compared to the year before. While Maine is making progress in this area, we have work to do in expanding access to all young people across the state and ensuring that programs meet the needs of working families. Only 9% of public pre-K programs are offered full-day, five days per week.

PROPORTION OF MAINE 4-YEAR-OLDS ENROLLED IN PUBLIC PRE-K

27%2010-11
32%2011-12
34%2012-13
35%2013-14
36%2014-15
40%2015-16
39%2016-17
44%2017-18
46%2018-19
50%2019-20

Percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in public pre-K

32%

WHERE WE STARTED (2013)

 
50%

WHERE WE STAND (2019)

 
64%

GOAL (2019)

 

LEARN MORE

 

Did you know?

  • Every dollar invested in high-quality early learning can produce up to a 13% return in the long run. Research by Nobel Laureate James Heckman and others has found that participation in high quality early learning reduces later societal costs related to health care, involvement in the criminal justice system, and special education, while boosting children’s long-term social, academic, and employment outcomes.
  • In Maine, approximately 70% of children under age 6 have all available parents and caregivers participating in the workforce.
  • If all Maine students had full-time early education from birth to Kindergarten, over 1,000 more economically disadvantaged students would graduate from high school.

Dig Deeper

The following resources share comprehensive information on the state of early learning in Maine.

Are you someone who enjoys learning through watching? The following are powerful, informative films about the urgent need for high-quality early education in America.

What Maine Communities are Doing

  • Elevate Maine/Somerset is a model comprehensive birth-to-kindergarten-entry quality early care and education system in the greater Skowhegan area. The program is designed to demonstrate the significant impact that coordinated early childcare and learning can have on a community. Some program features include weekly coaching; parent engagement and education; comprehensive service provision (nutrition, oral, mental and physical health education and resources); and evidence-based evaluation to support increased child health and education outcomes.
  • Starting Strong is a community-wide effort in Portland that seeks to have all children ready for kindergarten and reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Its Reading Partners program, developed in Fall 2015, matches first-graders in need of extra reading support with skilled volunteers for 25 minutes of tutoring twice per week. 78% of students in the initial cohort met or exceeded literacy benchmarks and the program has since expanded to five more elementary schools in the city. The Starting Strong Parent Council brings together parents from diverse backgrounds who want to take on an expanded role in improving early childhood systems in Portland. Starting Strong has also put together a local coalition called Portland Works for Kids to help define the early childhood system and services residents want to see and engage key allies in this movement.
  • Washington County’s Family Futures Downeast program uses a two-generation approach combining access to career development, college classes, and a supportive learning environment for parents with high-quality early education for their children. The program is a collaboration between five nonprofit and public organizations and two higher education institutions.

Take Action

  • Get involved with the Right from the Start coalition or join the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children to get connected with others and begin advocating on behalf of early education in Maine.
  • Talk to your town or city council and your school board about how your community can partner with child care programs to grow publicly-funded preschool and early learning. Help create local connections between business, child care, school districts, and nonprofits.
  • Contact your state senator and representative and urge them to support state funding for early childhood education and services, from home visiting, to family child care, to public preschool.
  • Contact Maine’s Congressional Delegation – Senators Collins and King, Congresswoman Pingree, and Congressman Golden – and urge them to support federal funding for early care and education.
  • Talk to your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and employer about early care and education and spread awareness about the need to grow the number of high-quality child care programs in Maine.