Quality child care measure becomes law

Measure recognizes importance of children’s earliest years 

AUGUSTA – A measure to increase access to quality of child care in Maine is now law.

LD 1581, sponsored by House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, would provide quality child care providers a modest, merit-based pay raise.

“It’s wonderful that we’re recognizing the importance of young Mainers’ earliest years by investing in quality child care,” said Berry, who was an award-winning public school teacher. “This new law creates incentives that will increase the number of quality child care providers. It’s a strategic investment from which we will all reap benefits later on.”

The state’s quality rating systems considers staff training, facility conditions and programming strength. The law increases the duration of the current quality incentive by using federal Child Care Development Funds and would have no impact on the state’s General Fund.

The first years of childhood are key to brain development and set the course for the progress of language skills and higher cognitive functions.

LD 1581’s supporters include the Maine Children’s Alliance, the United Way, the Maine Women’s Lobby and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, an organization of law enforcement officials and violence survivors.

In written testimony, Todd Brackett from the Lincoln County Sheriff Office and Fight Crime, said, “high-quality early care and education for at-risk kids can not only reduce the likelihood of a child committing a crime later in life, but it also provides far greater costs savings to our communities and our state in the long run.”

Path to a Better Future: The Fiscal Payoff of Investment in Early Childhood in Maine, by University of Maine economist Philip Trostel, found a 7.5 percent return on investment. It also found that high-quality preschool education for a low-income child saves taxpayers an average of $125,400 over the child’s lifetime – more than five times the initial investment.

LD 1581 became law Tuesday without the governor’s signature.