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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.
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.
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.