Unfunded Mandate? Let’s Do Pre-K Right in Maine!

An opinion piece in today’s Bangor Daily News expresses concern that despite good intentions LD1530 – the bill to require preschool access to four year-olds living in Maine by  school year 2018 – 2019 – is seriously flawed. A key problem in the bill is that funding is not clear for the program.

This bill is too important to get wrong, and if funding is not worked out right from the start,  won’t we hear excuses down the road explaining why the mandate cannot be enforced? This has happened with many programs since I moved to Maine several decades ago. The Learning Results, for example, required graduates to reach competency in modern and classical languages – but since the mandate was not funded, most districts dropped the ball. Most children in Maine are still woefully uninformed when it comes to the world outside their towns. We can talk about global education all we want, but unless we focus on languages and social studies in our schools the talk is just that.

Any teacher of primary school children will tell you that the gap between the have’s and have not’s in terms of learning is glaringly obvious by the start of  kindergarten. They will also tell you that closing that gap rarely happens, because it requires extra funding and extra staff. Yet that it is key to success in the K – 12 years. Universal pre-K provided by qualified teachers will help close that gap.

Let’s not allow pre-K education in Maine to fail because the bill isn’t quite worked out. I urge our legislators to prioritize education this session.

Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.