Restore funding for early childhood

TESTIMONY OF NED MCCANN, MAINE CHILDREN’S ALLIANCE

Before the Joint Standing Committees on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and

Health and Human Services on the Biennial Budget

March 27, 2013

Good afternoon. Senator Hill and Representative Rotundo, Senator Craven and Representative Farnsworth, and members of the Joint Standing Committees on Appropriations and Financial Affairs and members of the Health and Human Services, my name is Ned McCann. I am the Executive Director of the Maine Children’s Alliance. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this afternoon.

The Maine Children’s Alliance is a statewide non-partisan, non-profit research and advocacy organization whose mission is to promote sound public policies to improve the lives of children, youth, and families in Maine. I am also speaking today on behalf of the Start ME Right Coalition, a group of early childhood experts and advocates devoted to improving early childhood health and education.

Our interest today is not to respond to specific items in the Biennial Budget that are immediately before you. Rather, we are speaking today about what is missing from this budget—the restoration of previous cuts to the three pillars of early childhood efforts in Maine–Child Care, Home Visiting, and Head Start.

Legislation is currently pending in the Health and Human Services Committee to restore critical funding to these programs. One bill focused upon Head Start, sponsored by Senator Tuttle and co-sponsored by Representative Fredette, had its hearing postponed due to weather last week. Another bill to address Home Visiting, child care, and Head Start sponsored by Representative Berry is not yet printed, to my knowledge. The Maine Children’s Alliance and the Start ME Right Coalition want to highlight these bills and their importance to your deliberations prior to the conclusion of your work on this portion of the biennial budget.

In a press release accompanying the State’s “Race to the Top” application to the U.S. Department of Education, Governor LePage stated, “Guaranteeing children a solid educational foundation before they begin kindergarten is the first crucial investment we as a state can make in a future work force that will drive economic growth in Maine.” This sentiment has been echoed by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Development Foundation in a report last year entitled “Making Maine Work: Investment in Young Children = Real Economic Development.” The same sound thinking has been expressed by the Maine Early Learning Investment Group, a group of CEO’s in Maine who understand the vital importance of early childhood education to workforce development and economic health. Others groups like America’s Edge, Mission Readiness, and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids–business, military, and law enforcement groups also highly value early childhood investments.

Yet our funding decisions in recent years have moved us in the wrong direction. In charts that accompany my testimony, you can note that, between the Fund for a Healthy Maine and the General Fund, we have reduced funding to home visiting, child care, and head start by 48% over the last three years, from nearly $19 million to just under $10 million.

Compounding the problems with this state action, Head Start in Maine is also being reduced as a result of the federal sequestration, another hit of $1.6 million.

We are moving in the wrong direction. My mission today is to implore you to re-establish funding for early childhood as a very high priority for the State of Maine. Thousands of Maine children and families, as well as our economic future, depend upon it.

Thank you for your time today. I am happy to try to answer any questions you may have, and look forward to seeing the members of the Health and Human Services Committee soon on legislation yet to be heard.


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