Testimony at Hearing on LD 517: An Act To Restore Funding for Head Start and LD 1383: An Act To Improve the Delivery of Early Child Care and Education Services

Investing in Head Start, child care, and home visiting is good for our children, their parents, our communities, and our economy. Academic research shows that quality child development is a boon to the economy. The return on investment is high. Access to these programs allows parents to work and raises their productivity. And they enrich Maine businesses by boosting skills and abilities of the children who will be our future workers.

MECEP supports investment in these programs first and foremost because they give low-income Maine children high quality care and early learning opportunities that studies show improve their whole lives.

Quality child care is particularly important to enhance economic opportunities for low-income working adults as it allows them to work or even go back to school that will in turn help them move from poverty to prosperity.

The vast majority of today’s jobs that pay wages sufficient to support a family require some postsecondary education. In order for low-income working adults to qualify for better paying jobs, they need access to higher education and training. Yet for many the single biggest obstacle to that education and training, aside from cost, is lack of quality, affordable child care.

Child care is a necessity for most Maine families. For 70 percent of all Maine children under the age of six, both their parents work. 

The availability of quality child care will increase the number of people in the labor force. What’s more, those working parents with access to child care will more readily succeed at work. Research shows that access to quality child care enhances parents’ productivity, increases reliability, and reduces poor performance and turnover. With a safe place for their children, working parents therefore are able to make a greater contribution to Maine’s economic output.

In addition, research shows that early education prepares children to learn and makes them higher-skilled, more productive workers in the future.  Better educated adults are better able to support themselves and their families, and even earn higher salaries than without early education and care.  Other economic gains include: lower incidences of grade retention and special education; elevated high school graduation rates and post-secondary attainment rates; reduced reliance on social support programs; better health outcomes; and less engagement with the criminal justice system.

Yet Maine lags the rest of New England in the number of children receiving early education.

Less than 60 percent of Maine children age three to five are enrolled in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten. Of just three- and four-year olds, only 42 percent are in pre-school, the lowest number in all of New England.

Despite what we now know about the impact of early childhood education, especially for children age 0-3, on success in college, higher income, and even lower crime and incarceration rates, we continue to spend less on the youngest age groups. A study by the Urban Institute in Washington DC shows that in 2008 federal and state governments in the U.S. spent about $10,000 per capita on education for children in kindergarten through 12th grade. By contrast, spending on 3- to 5-year-olds was less than $5,000. For children under 3 it was just $300.

When more is spent on early childhood education, the returns to society (and to the children) per dollar spent are large. Quality early childhood development returns more than $16 for every $1 invested. Investment in quality early childhood development has the potential to deliver real economic advantages.

Because of the immediate positive impacts on the economy from enabling more parents to work and raising their productivity and the long-term economic gains of producing future skilled workers, the impact of quality care and education programs can be felt at all levels of our economy. It is as valuable an investment in economic development as any we can make. Just as state government investment in the physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, sewers), expenditures on child care and early childhood education will support Maine’s economy long into the future.

LDs 517 and 1383 is good for Maine’s children, Maine’s working families, and Maine’s economy. We urge you to restore the funds to Head Start, Child Care Subsidy, and Maine Families Home Visiting.
Thank you and I am happy to answer any questions.


MacEwan, Arthur. Early Childhood Education as an Essential Component of Economic Development: With Reference to the New England States. Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts: Amherst, MA, January 2013. 
Available on-line at:http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/published_study/ECE_MacEwan_PERI_Jan8.pdf

Maine Development Foundation and Maine State Chamber. Making Maine Work: Investments in Young Children = Real Economic Development, January 2012. Available on-line at: http://www.mdf.org/publications/Making-Maine-Work-Investment-in-Young-Children-%3D-Real-Economic-Development/475/

The Urban Institute. How Do Public Investments in Children Vary with Age? A Kids’ Share Analysis of
Expenditures in 2008 and 2011 by Age Group, October 2012. Available on-line at:http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412676-How-Do-Public-Investments-in-Children-Vary-with-Age.pdf

Jody Harris, Policy Analyst, Maine Center for Economic Policy testifying before the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services in support of LDs 517 and 1383, which restore funding for Head Start, Maine’s Child Care Subsidy program, and Maine Families Home Visiting services for new parents.