Legislative panel considering how to expand public pre-K in Maine
A new legislative commission is studying what it would take to gradually expand public pre-kindergarten to all eligible Maine children over the next four years.
The Department of Education estimates that 52%, or roughly 6,269 of four year olds in Maine are enrolled in pre-K.
About 85% of school districts around Maine offer some kind of pre-K, but not all programs are able to serve every eligible child, said Lee Anne Larsen, early learning director for the state's DOE.
"About 51% of our school systems are able to offer pre-K universally," she told the commission, which met for the first time earlier this week. "Many, many of those, though, are our very small school administrative units (SAUs) that have one school with very tiny school populations. We only have a handful of our larger SAUs that we could say that about."
Sue Powers of the Aroostook County Action Program, who serves on the new commission, said the panel should consider how Maine could provide a variety of pre-K options at schools or with community partners that can accommodate parents with non-traditional work schedules.
"One of our biggest challenges will be funding, and finding funding, that will support that system," she added.
The commission is expected to offer a series of recommendations to the Legislature early next year.