Rita Furlow, MCA’s Senior Policy Analyst, recently testified before the before the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs, urging them to reject the recommended cuts to Head Start, Home Visiting, Public Health Nursing, and the Maine Immunization Program. These cuts go against everything we know about improving our long term investment in Maine children.
Below are some highlights from Rita’s testimony – her full statement can be accessed here.
On the importance of brain development:
Recent research on the brain has focused on the critical importance of the first five years of brain development. This period is crucial in establishing the neural functions and connections that shape future cognitive, social, emotional, and health outcomes. There is clear evidence emerging from neuroscience that demonstrates strong correlations between poverty and various aspects of brain function in young children. When children receive few opportunities for positive serve-and-return interactions— when the responses from adults are sporadic, inappropriate, or missing entirely—they are not getting the stimulation their brains need to develop in a healthy way.
Cuts to Maine’s Head Start program
We reject the contention in the report that somehow Maine’s existing public preschool program can make up for the recommended cuts to Maine’s Head Start program of $448,875.00. A number of public preschools in Maine currently work jointly with Head Start to provide these programs, so cutting Head Start will undermine those existing programs. Maine currently has no regulations governing its public preschool program. We have no way to know, for example, the number of hours that a child would receive in the program, beyond a ten-hour minimum. As Maine’s preschool program is voluntary, there are also large geographic gaps in terms of where public preschool is offered in Maine.
Consolidation and realignment of Public Health Nursing and Home Visiting
The recommendations relative to Public Health Nursing and Home Visiting contend that a “consolidation and realignment effort” would result in a General Fund savings of $500,000. Yet the report states that they do not “anticipate a reduction in direct services.” While it is unclear from the report whether the $500,000 reduction would be from Public Health Nursing or Home Visiting, it seems impossible that these cuts will not significantly impact direct services to hundreds of children in Maine.
On cutting $1 million from Maine’s Immunization Program
Childhood immunizations are one of the most cost-effective and proven strategies we have to protect the long-term health of Maine children. We urge you to reject any cuts to the immunization program that will threaten the health of Maine’s children.