Maine completed its state economic impact report in June 2003 in partnership with a task force of early childhood advocates. While businesses were not part of the task force, business leaders had encouraged ECE advocates to explore an economic oriented message that could show the direct impact of ECE in the community and make a stronger case for business involvement. Federal grant funding designated to support early childhood systems planning and data collection was used to help fund the initial report, Maine moved forward in it efforts to have a data driven ECE agenda. Policy and social ECE efforts in recent years have included the information gathered as part of the initial report and were validated with more recently collected data.
Using Economic Messages
One important strategy in Maine’s efforts in integrating ECE with economic development has been to identify state and local champions to help carry the message forward. These champions have used the economic impact message to make the case to larger and more diverse group of state policy makers, business people and local leaders to encourage greater investment in ECE.
The Attorney General is a strong supporter and a vocal champion of ECE. Leading a grassroots campaign, the Attorney General has made presentations across the state to businesses and other stakeholders on the economic impact of ECE. The economic impact report was an invaluable tool at the start of this effort to help educate the population about ECE’s economic impact. Since its release, new data has been added to the presentation in continuing efforts to engage new partners and leverage additional investments.
A take home message for the business community is a key component of all the presentations being made across the state. Employers after hearing the message around child care and workforce engagement, are asked to go back and evaluate their own company’s policies and family benefits package. Information is shared with the business community on a variety of options available to them in efforts to support their workers child care and family needs. In addition, businesses are provided with information that outlines both the long and short term benefits of ECE investments to their company. Armed with information and action steps, businesses have something specific and tangible they can provide to their employees for little or no cost.
United Way chapters across the state of Maine are very strong partners in sharing the economic impact message. There is not a statewide United Way so several regional organizations have served the state in that capacity. The United Way serving the central part of the state has pulled together business partners and community leaders to develop a community revitalization plan that includes quality ECE. Their work at the local level includes messages on worker productivity, the ability to get to work and impacts of child care to the bottom line. Other United Way chapters in the state are looking at replicating this approach and reevaluating their areas of focus.
United Way Chapters have also made efforts integrating the recommendations made in the state’s Invest Early Plan into local investments to create more uniformity across effort to build the ECE infrastructure.
Boosting the Economic Power of Early Care and Education: Key Highlights
The Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education was established in 1990 as a business and education partnership to advocate for student achievement and support efforts to ensure all children have access to a quality educational experience. Their work is based on data that highlights the economic impact of educational success and the importance of school achievement in preparing a 21st century global workforce.
The Maine Economic Growth Council, part of the Maine Development Foundation whose organizational mission drives long-term economic growth in the state, issues a report every year on measures of growth. The 2008 Measures of Growth in Focus include investment in young children and ECE as critical to ensuring future success.
The Finance Authority of Maine assists businesses in accessing capital for start up and expansion. They are currently evaluating and revamping the administrative and application process for the child care improvement loan program to eliminate barriers often faced by providers trying to use the product.
The Maine legislature created Invest Early in Maine. Invest Early in Maine is a comprehensive ECE systems plan developed by the Task Force on Early Childhood. The task force was initially created by the legislature to develop. It was then given a new charge to develop and implement the state’s Early Childhood Initiative which included the development of an Early Childhood Comprehensive System. The task force spent three years assessing and evaluating the existing early care resources, strengthens, needs, costs and gaps. The result of that effort was the creation of implementation the Invest Early in Maine: A Working Plan for Humane Early Childhood Systems which is now in the second year of implementation.
State and Legislative Actions
Convened in 2003, The Task Force on Early Childhood is a critical part of the state’s ECE efforts. Reporting to the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, this Task Force is working to implement the goals of the state’s early childhood initiative. The Task Force, which includes a diverse group of state experts and community leaders spent its first several years collecting and analyzing data on the system’s current resources, costs, gaps, and strengths. Building on that data, the Task Force developed Invest Early in Maine: A Working Plan for Humane Early Childhood Systems. This comprehensive systems plan includes a set of policy recommendations and serves as the blue print for prioritizing action and investment in early education. More than 200 people have been engaged in the work of the Task Force that is the impetus behind the state’s engagement of business and civic leaders on early childhood issues. The economic impact report data was used in conveying to a larger audience that changing systems for families and children is not just a government issue but a community issue. The Invest Early Plan has been used to engage business and community leaders and serve as a benchmark against which to evaluate local investments in ECE. Implementation of the state plan is now in its second year.
In 2007, Maine was awarded a grant from the National Governors Association to support a Governor’s Summit on Early Education that would raise the visibility of new policy efforts to create a comprehensive school readiness agenda for children ages birth to five. The Governor’s Economic Summit on Early Education was named to grab people’s attention and raise the level of importance afforded to early education. The United Way served on the planning team and worked at the local level to educate the public, publicize the Summit, and begin local conversations around ECE. In addition, each United Way created a community team that participated in the summit’s events. A business advisory committee was also convened as part of the planning efforts to provide business leaders an opportunity to get engaged. The Governor even hosted a meeting of the business group to allow them to directly voice their concerns about child care issues affecting their workers. The business committee not only participated in the event but agreed to have their names included on the Summit materials. The day prior to the Summit, a private dinner and breakfast was held for key state business leaders with George Kaiser, the summit’s keynote speaker. This increased the level of business buy-in as they heard from nationally recognized executive about the benefits of investment in ECE. A brief evaluation of the Summit designed to capture changes in attitude as a result of the event found that business and policy leaders did experience a shift in understanding and had a much greater willingness to invest in ECE. At the end of the Summit, the State Chamber president, who is the former Secretary of Transportation and well known for his belief that transportation is the economic foundation of the state, remarked that it was ok to quote him as having said that from now on he will say that the economic foundation of our state is early childhood.
Following the summit, by Governor’s directive, the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development formed a Business Roundtable on Early Childhood that included businesses who participated in the summit planning and newly identified business leaders. The Business Roundtable is continuing its engagement and is working with the Task Force on Early Childhood to develop a business plan for the Invest Early in Maine Plan to include recommendations on priority investments and building program sustainability into the plan.
In 2006, home child care workers voted to unionize. This has brought needed attention to this huge sector of the child care system in Maine. The ripple effect has been to highlight for the business community that these home providers are entrepreneurs in their right. Efforts are underway to encourage established businesses to share their expertise and mentor home providers. A union representative was part of the Summit planning team and other state led ECE planning efforts.
In April 2008, new legislation created the Maine Children’s Growth Council and a new Office of the Child Advocate with many provisions targeted to improve services for children ages birth through 5. The Council will develop, manage and evaluate a long-term plan for investing the in development of young children and their families to include efforts to create unified early childhood service system. The council will include public and private partners appointed by the Governor.
Maine's Early Childhood Initiative has information on the Governor's summit including the agenda, issues briefs, and audio files from the conference. In addition there are meeting minutes and notes from the task force's work and the ongoing implementation of the Invest Early in Maine Plan