Supplemental budget funding provisions would make a real impact on Maine's child care and early education workforce
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce testified on Monday, February 28 before the Joint Standing Committees on Appropriations & Financial Affairs and Health & Human Services in support of the $12 million in child care workforce supports in LD 1995, Governor Janet Mills’ FY22-23 Supplemental Budget proposal.
The Maine State Chamber offered testimony also as a partner in the Right From The Start Coalition. The coalition aims to create systems and pursue legislation that supports access to effective, quality child care and early education. All Maine families deserve access to a healthy child care system.
In his written testimony on behalf of the Maine State Chamber, Simon West noted that the pandemic has highlighted the early child care workforce shortage. This leaves access to programs that promote healthy learning and social / emotional development in the hands of families with excess means.
As Maine is working hard to develop an education system that can cultivate skilled adults ready for rewarding careers, and when research has shown that a child’s future academic and career performance can be accurately estimated by developmental stages achieved prior to entering kindergarten, it becomes apparent that our work in the later education years could suffer from a lack of attention to earlier years. LD 1995’s funding to support the critical child care teachers of our youngest children will help ensure that efforts in high schools, career and technical education centers, community colleges, and the university system are being supported by early education. Early education can create the foundation necessary to make our current goals more attainable.
These funding provisions will make a real impact on the early education workforce shortage by extending the wage increases in the field - increases made possible with federal relief funds that are helping address the demand and retention challenges in this critical workforce.
In another part of the supplemental budget, there is also a provision to create more pathways to early child care careers and boosts the quality of early child care providers by expanding early childhood education programs at career and technical education centers, which the Maine State Chamber of Commerce also supports.
Many stakeholders will benefit from the passing of this bill. The most obvious are early child care workers, children, families, and employers.
Maine has already worked to pass a bill that increases high school teacher pay due to the many benefits students receive when teachers are lifted out of poverty. While the focus has been on high school teachers, it is important to know that early child care educators are paid 25% less than their K-8 colleagues and that their poverty rate is 8.3x higher. Wage increases will increase the supply of early child care educators, helping to solve the shortage issue. It will also make the field more competitive, ultimately increasing the quality of early child care education. The bill does this in a way that does not impact a family’s ability to afford child care.
In addition to the wage increases in LD 1995, the CTE expansion for early educators also proposed in the supplemental budget will generate additional pathways to the field while ensuring that new early child care providers are properly qualified.
Families and employers will benefit because families will be less apt to make hard decisions about how to afford or find child care. This will allow single parents to know that their child is receiving quality care while they are at work, and two parent families will be more likely to have both parents able to pursue careers. Families will have less unnecessary stress and employers will have an opportunity to hire new talent as parents who were once forced out of the workforce begin reentry.
If you have any questions, please contact Simon West, human resources director, by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 117, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.