Maine’s Prosperity Relies on Today’s Early Childhood Development
Maine’s prosperity is directly linked to how we treat our youngest children. Early experiences set the developmental trajectory for lifelong learning and health. Maine needs our youngest children to grow up strong, vital and prepared for the workforce. Promoting early childhood experiences that are nurturing, stable, and interactive for all young children regardless of income or where they live, and preventing adverse experiences, can lift Maine above the negative trends occurring in our economy.
THE CHALLENGE FOR MAINE
Many Maine families struggle to find steady, good paying jobs. At the same time, Maine employers find it difficult to fill jobs in areas such as health sciences, engineering and information technology because there simply aren’t enough highly educated and skilled workers.
On the public policy level, policymakers grapple with the high costs of health care, treatment services, and remedial education. Serious health and social problems like domestic violence, drug abuse and alcoholism demand expensive interventions and drive-up criminal justice and treatment spending. Experts struggle with how to improve high school and college graduation rates knowing that the higher the educational level, the greater the earning power. Amid all of this, there is relentless debate on tax rates and budget deficits. These problems will not reverse on their own, partly because Maine has the oldest population in the country, a low birthrate, and a high percentage of Mainers with low education and income. And research shows that severe poverty and lack of education are common denominators for many problems facing young children and their families.
Most Mainers are not aware of the significance of early brain architecture and the foundation it creates for future skills and behaviors. As a public, we don’t value early childhood beyond the privacy of our own homes. Indeed, shortsighted public policies and cuts to vital programs and services for Maine’s youngest children and their families threaten the future economy and the quality of life in Maine.
- One third of Maine’s youngest children are low income. 2/3 of children under 5 live in families in which all parents work.
- 9 out of 10 young children in Maine whose parents lack a high school degree live in low income families (3/4 with a high school degree).
- 30% of all young children can’t read at the basic level by 4th grade and 67% can’t read proficiently (80% for low income children).
- 78% of parents report that their children do not receive a developmental and behavioral screening at a well-child visit (between 10 mos. and 5 years). 30% of children entering kindergarten referred for special services have not been engaged with the established early intervention system.
THE ECONOMICS OF INVESTING IN EARLY CHILDHOOD
Economist and University of Maine Professor Philip A. Trostel, PhD examined the cost benefit of investment in high quality early care and education in Maine. His report, published in 2013, Path to a Better Future, The Fiscal Payoff for Investment in Early Childhood in Maine, was commissioned by a group of nonpartisan organizations, individuals, business leaders and philanthropies.
Dr. Trostel’s analysis assumed the participation of low income children between the ages of birth and four years old in an integrated system of high quality early care and education that included comprehensives services and intensive parent engagement with home visiting. The results were staggering–if implemented, tax revenues would increase due to higher education and earning potential; government spending would decrease in prisons and jails, juvenile corrections, child protection, Medicaid, and special education; and families would rely less on social assistance.
In economic terms, the real fiscal internal rate of return on investment In early childhood programs to be 7.5%. Over five years, the cost of increased investment among participating low income infants and toddlers would cost $26,200 per child but Maine would realize a total lifetime government savings (fiscal benefit) for each child of $125,400. The more immediate government savings per child during the school years (K-12) would be $25,700 and the initial public cost would be fully recovered by age 14. After that the program would pay for itself many times over.
Please follow the work of the Maine Children’s Growth Council and read on to find out how you can help lay the foundation for your child and for Maine’s future. Contact us today for more information.