Maine was likely in a strong position to claim a multimillion-dollar federal award to pay for improvements to its patchwork of early learning programs. But, infuriatingly, the state snubbed a chance to invest heavily in its children at a time of life when it matters most.
The Maine departments of Education and Health and Human Services this fall decided against applying for a slice of $280 million available in a third round of the federal Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge. Some 16 states and Washington, D.C., meanwhile, jumped at the opportunity and submitted applications to improve programs for their youngest, most high-needs residents.
It’s discouraging the state would pass up an opportunity to invest in its youngest residents at an age when the return on investment is highest. It’s widely acknowledged that investment in high-quality early childhood education reaps returns later in life in the form of reduced spending on special education, higher levels of employment and higher earnings, and lower levels of crime and costly incarceration.
Through an investment lens, Maine has turned up its nose at a common-sense strategy.