Early Childhood Update

1. Proposed Rules for Public Preschool Programs in Maine

The Maine Department of Education has proposed rules that would create standards for public preschools in Maine. A public hearing on the proposal was held last week on Monday, November 17, 2014 in Augusta. There were approximately a dozen people in attendance and comments were made by MCA staff, a school superintendent, and the director of a private child care facility that collaborates with a public school to offer a preschool program.

It is important for the Department of Education to hear from supporters of high quality early childhood programs! In particular, it is critical to support the kind of high quality programming that can impact children’s development and success, such as appropriate staffing ratios, evidence based curriculum, and professional development. We also believe it is important to recognize the statutory emphasis on ensuring that schools coordinate with community providers, including Head Start and private child care.

Comments must be submitted by Friday, December 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm. You can find out more about the proposed rules and submitting comments by going to the Department’s web site.

You can download the rule by going to the Department’s page on Proposed Rules and Rule Changes, scrolling down to Chapter 124, and then clicking on the link entitled “Proposed Chapter 124 Language.”

2. Child Care Subsidy Program Rules

The Department of Health and Human Services will be holding a public hearing on proposed program rules relating to Maine’s Child Care Subsidy Program (also known as the child care voucher program) on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at 19 Union Street, Room 110, Augusta. These rules were initially proposed by the Department in September.  A public hearing has now been scheduled as a result of a sufficient number of requests from members of the public.

The high cost of child care is a significant burden for low income families is Maine as it requires a much higher percentage of their income. Maine’s child care subsidy program allows low-income parents to find employment and stay employed. Child care subsidies also decrease job-related disruptions due to child care problems. For all these reason, changes to Maine’s subsidy program will impact Maine children and their families.

We urge you to review these rules and share your views with the Department. The final deadline for written comments is midnight on Saturday, December 13, 2014. You can send your comments via email to: Timothy.Swift@Maine.gov or mail a hard copy to Timothy Swift, Policy & Training Unit, Office of Child and Family Services, 11 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

Please note that these proposed state rule changes were made prior to the passage of the federal legislation discussed below. We look forward to hearing more from the Department about their implementation of the federal law changes.

3. Congress and President Agree on Changes to Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant

In a rare bipartisan agreement, the federal program that provides funding for child care subsidies in Maine and across the nation was just reauthorized by Congress and signed by the President for the first time since 1996 (see article from CLASP) . The reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) will also make significant changes in child care quality.

These big changes also bring many questions. We will be spending the upcoming weeks and months learning more about these new law changes and how they will impact child care in Maine. If you are interested in more details on the federal changes,  we urge you to visit the National Women’s Law Center and view their article on the potential cost implications of the law and a comparison chart of law changes.

4. Study Finds Wages for Workers Caring for Children  Among Lowest of All Occupations

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment has just released a new study, Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages, a portrait of the early childhood teaching workforce today in comparison to that of 25 years ago, when the results of the first National Child Care Staffing Study were released. This report calls attention to persistent features of early childhood jobs, including low wages and the fact that those in these positions struggle to support their own families.

The report also provides information on the mean wages for Maine child care workers, preschool, and kindergarten teachers and compares them to wages in other states.


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