Governor Mills Announces Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan Grants to 14 School Administrative Units to Expand Access to Pre-K Programs

School Administrative Units will receive a total of $2.7 million in grants to create or expand Pre-K programs beginning this fall

Governor Janet Mills announced today that 14 school administrative units will receive a total of $2.7 million in grant funding from the Maine Department of Education to create or expand Pre-K programs this year.

The grants, which are the first of two rounds from the Governor’s Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, will increase the availability and accessibility of Pre-K for more than 500 children across Maine. A second, $6.3 million round of grants – making for a total $10 million investment in Pre-K from the Governor’s Jobs Plan – will be awarded later this year for programs beginning in fall 2023.

“Expanding Pre-K and child care opportunities is a major priority for my Administration, which is why it is a focus of my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Pre-K better prepares children for success in school while also helping parents better balance the everyday demands of child care and their jobs – it’s a win-win. I am pleased to award these funds through the Department of Education, and we will continue to work hard to make Pre-K more available and more accessible.”

“The Pre-K Expansion Grants are another step toward realizing Governor Mills’ vision of ensuring all students have access to high quality early learning experiences,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “I am proud of our Early Learning Team at the Department of Education, who will continue to support Maine schools in the development, expansion and implementation of exceptional programs for our youngest learners.”

“Recognizing that Pre-K education is one of the most important foundational pieces in the educational programming for our students, we feel blessed to have been awarded this grant from the Maine Department of Education,” said Michael Eastman, Superintendent of Regional School Unit #24. “Each of our four schools (Cave Hill, Ella Lewis, Mountain View, and Peninsula) will be able to provide an early learning experience that is equitable across the district and recognizes the developmental needs of this age group. We are anxious to get our earliest learners engaged in school in the fall.”

“We are very excited to be recipients of the Pre-K Expansion grant, as we do not currently have a Pre-K program in our small rural K-12 school,” said Greenville Superintendent of Schools Kelly MacFadyen. “This grant will provide us with the opportunity to implement a high-quality all-day preschool program for our 4-year-olds. We hope to eliminate barriers for families, such as cost, transportation and childcare.”

“The Pre-K expansion grant funds will allow us to expand our current programming and provide a full day/full week Pre-K program in a central location for our Hampden/Newburgh residents,” said RSU #22 Pre-K Coordinator, Dawn Moore. “Increasing to the full day/full week program will provide students with a high-quality, appropriately paced curriculum that will better prepare students for school readiness.”

School administrative units will use the grants to purchase or renovate facility space; support staff recruitment and training; or pay for other start-up costs necessary create new Pre-K programs, expand the capacity or schedules of existing programs, or re-establish prior programs. The Maine Department of Education is awarding the preliminary grants, which are subject to change pending school budget discussions, as follows:

To Establish New Pre-K Programs:

  • Appleton Public Schools: $160,000
  • Greenville School Department: $114,321
  • Kittery School Department: $514,481
  • St. George School Department: $37,159
  • Yarmouth School Department: $181,300

To Expand Existing Pre-K programs:

  • Bangor School Department: $74,928
  • Limestone School Department: $87,968
  • MSAD #49 (Fairfield, Benton, Clinton, Albion): $266,905
  • MSAD #54 (Skowhegan, Smithfield, Norridgewock, Mercer, Cornville, Canaan): $122,261
  • RSU #22 (Hampden, Newburgh, Winterport, Frankfort): $328,663
  • RSU #39 (Caribou): $98,516
  • St. George School Department: $37,159
  • Sanford School Department: $321,500
  • Vassalboro School Department: $171,771

To reestablish a Pre-K program:

  • RSU #24 (Eastbrook, Franklin, Gouldsboro, Mariaville, Steuben, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor): $246,438
  • Yarmouth School Department: $181,300

The school administrative units receiving grants were selected through a competitive process from DOE, with priority given to programs that serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds and establish partnerships with community organizations to further support students and families. Six school administrative units will partner with Head Starts or other community providers on their Pre-K programs.

Public Pre-K programs are proven to promote child development and create long-term positive impacts. A 2019 study by the Learning Policy Institute on the impacts of Pre-K found investments in early childhood education bolster student success and have positive impacts on children’s early literacy, math, and, social-emotional skills.

The 2019 Learning Policy Institute study also found established economic benefits of Pre-K, with an analysis showing high-quality preschool programs can yield up to a $17 return for each dollar invested when lifetime outcomes are considered.

Since taking office, the Mills Administration has invested an additional $5.4 million in public Pre-K programs in Maine as well as additional $7 million in grant funding to offset the local share for public Pre-K, resulting in an additional 90 Pre-K classrooms across the state. There are approximately 12,500 children in Maine now eligible for Pre-K, with 5,500 enrolled in existing public Pre-K programs across 152 school administrative units.

The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governor’s plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to achieve three goals: immediate economic recovery from the pandemic; long-term economic growth for Maine; and infrastructure revitalization.

It draws heavily on recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, transforming them into real action to improve the lives of Maine people and strengthen the economy.

Early childhood education and care investments were key recommendations of the Economic Recovery Committee and Economic Development Strategy to attract families to Maine, allow parents to stay in the workforce, and help employers find and retain employees.

In addition to public Pre-K, another initiative of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan will invest $10 million to help Maine communities renovate, expand, or build new child care facilities and expand early childhood education programs.

These efforts complement the Governor’s historic Child Care Plan for Maine (PDF) that utilizes approximately l$120 million in American Rescue Plan funds dedicated to child care – in addition to $50 million in previous COVID-19 pandemic assistance – to help Maine’s child care system recover and improve child care quality, accessibility, and affordability over the long-term.

These investments build on the Mills Administration’s efforts to support Maine children and families before and during the pandemic, including helping low-income parents who receive subsidies by waiving their contribution to child care fees, distributing $10 million in federal CARES Act funding directly to providers through stipends and grants, and making available $8.4 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds to reimburse providers for COVID-19-related business costs. The state additionally maintains the Child Care Choices website, which allows families to locate and connect with providers in their area.

In 2019, Governor Mills reinvigorated Maine's Children's Cabinet, which continues to work toward the goals of ensuring that Maine children enter kindergarten prepared to succeed, and that Maine youth enter adulthood healthy, connected to the workforce and/or education.