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Enrollment in Maine public school pre-K rebounds to pre-pandemic levels

The number of Maine four-year-olds who are enrolled in public pre-school has returned to near pre-pandemic levels, according to a new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

Allison Friedman-Krauss, assistant research professor at the Institute, says 41% of Maine four-year-olds go to public preschool. But as the state moves towards universal pre-K, she says that percentage should be doubled.

"So we think like 70 to 80%, or a similar percentage of children who are in kindergarten and first grade are what you want to aim for," says Friedman-Krauss.

One issue nationwide is a shortage of qualified teachers. And that, she says, is likely due to low pay.

"Improving pay parity, improving benefits to teachers, I think, is really the key here," she says.

Friedman-Krauss says Maine should also consider increasing the minimum 10 hours a week it currently guarantees for public pre-school.

The report gave Maine pre-schools high scores for quality, meeting nine out of 10 benchmarks.