AUGUSTA – On Monday, the Mills Administration announced that two school districts in Aroostook County will receive funds to expand existing Pre-K programs thanks to a new law passed by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and the Maine Legislature in a party-line vote last year. The bill – LD 1733, “An Act To Provide Allocations for the Distribution of State Fiscal Recovery Funds” – used federal funds to make a historic investment in Maine children, families, small businesses and communities.
“In Aroostook County, we understand the value of preschool. It ensures that parents have a place to drop off their 4-year-olds while they go to work and it ensures that our young kids show up to kindergarten ready to learn,” said President Jackson. “I’m thrilled that both Caribou and Limestone schools will receive critical funds to expand their already successful programs thanks to our work in the Maine Legislature. However, I hope it’s just the beginning. All County preschool programs deserve additional support.”
Limestone School Department will receive $87,968 and Regional School District 39, which serves Caribou and the surrounding area, will receive $98,516. The added funds will allow both Limestone School Department and RSU #39 to open up additional Pre-K slots to eligible children living in the district.
Since 2007, Aroostook County has led the state in terms of the percentage of 4-year-old enrolled in public preschool programs. In 2020, 73 percent of 4-year-olds – 3 out of 4 eligible children – were enrolled in one of the County’s public preschool programs. At the same time, Aroostook County has experienced higher test scores and high school graduation rates according to the Aroostook County Action Program.
President Jackson has always been a strong advocate for expanding quality, affordable early childhood education and supporting the professionals who work in this vital industry. Last year, he partnered with parents, child care providers, early childhood advocates, and business interests, to introduce and pass legislation that will expand access to quality, affordable child care by investing in child care providers and working with community stakeholders to open slots in existing child care facilities. The new law replicates a successful program in Somerset county, modeled after the successful Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership.
This year, he cosponsored legislation to help attract and retain child care workers. The goal is to ensure the qualified professionals already doing this important work can afford to stay in the field and attract more hardworking Mainers to this profession.
Research from economists, including the University of Maine’s Phillip Trostel, Nobel Prize-winning James Heckman and Rob Grunewald at the Federal Reserve, have linked investment in quality, early education, like preschool, to improved education outcomes.