EDITOR’S NOTE: The following testimony was delivered by Megan Diver on behalf of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce in support of Prek expansion in LR 3206, An Act Making Supplemental Appropriations And Allocations For The Expenditures Of State Government, General Fund And Other Funds, And Changing Certain Provisions Of The Law Necessary To The Proper Operations Of State Government For The Fiscal Years Ending June 30, 2020 And June 30, 2021, at a public hearing held on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, before the Joint Standing Committees on Education and Cultural Affairs and Appropriations and Financial Affairs. We have reprinted it here for your review.
Senator Breen, Senator Millett, Representative Gattine, and Representative Kornfield, distinguished members of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee and the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee: I am Megan Diver, senior government relations specialist for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and a member of the business organization ReadyNation. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce is also proud to be a co-leader of the MaineSpark Coalition that is dedicated to achieving the state’s education attainment goal that 60 percent of Maine adults have a credential of value by 2025.
I am pleased to offer the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s continued support for the expansion of public PreK as a tool to build and strengthen Maine’s future workforce.
Maine business leaders believe strongly that education is the single most important investment that can be made to ensure successful participation in the new, knowledge-based economy, earnings growth and improved health status. Post-secondary education and training are critical building block to ensure success in the workforce. High-quality early education and K-12 are imperative building blocks to ensure post-secondary success. Moving each and every Mainer along the educational continuum to their highest educational potential is imperative. We have all seen the charts and know that there is a huge different in lifetime earnings between a college graduate and someone who drops out of high school: $2.1million per drop out. These staggering earning losses translate into less spending power, fewer contributions to the tax base, and less productivity.
Education is a critical investment in Maine people and in our economy and should be treated as such, through a coordinated approach starting with prekindergarten. Starting early with PreK is an important first step, so all students arrive at Kindergarten ready to learn, and it merits state investments. A 2013 research report by ReadyNation shows that children who participate in high-quality early learning programs have greater success and are 44% more likely to graduate from high school, 74% more likely to hold a skilled job, and make 26% more in earnings as adults. These numbers translate into an unbeatable long-term rate of return – up to $13 for every $1 invested.
As stated in our joint Making Maine Work report “Investment in Young Children = Real Economic Development,” for Maine people to truly reach their potential, it all starts at birth. Waiting to invest in Maine’s most precious assets, our children, until they enter our K-12 system is, for many, too late. To attain our vision of a high quality of life for all Maine people we must ensure that each and every Maine child has access to high quality care and education from birth. Investment in early education IS real economic development. It’s not just a social and moral imperative, it is an economic imperative.
In recent years Maine has made steady progress increasing voluntary Pre-K programming in various regions across our state in recent years, now serving just under 50 percent of our four-year-olds. And, here in Maine, we know that the Maine Department of Education data shows that at-risk four-year-olds who attended public PreK programs scored four to seven percentage points higher on reading and math assessments in the third and fourth grades when compared to their like peers who did not attend PreK.
We know that across our communities there are additional schools and community partnerships interested in adding public PreK programs, and the $1 million for start-up costs for new programs as proposed in the Governor’s supplement budget is a first step towards achieving the goal of providing more of our youngest children high-quality early learning opportunities.
We are asking you to support the Governor’s proposed PreK expansion funding to continue the successes in expanding more voluntary public PreK to additional Maine students. Thank you.