Opinion

Let’s keep working to strengthen Maine’s child care system

To the editor:

 A recent column by Senate President Troy Jackson of Aroostook County, where I am proud to say I was born and raised, cites strengthening child care as a top priority — and success — of the last session of Maine’s Legislature.

Now law, LD 1712 also was a priority to Maine’s business community. We thank President Jackson for proposing and leading passage of this important bill that expands quality child care.

 Maine is experiencing a serious labor shortage, with quality, affordable child care being a significant barrier for many parents who want to work. Finding a nurturing place for their kids was a struggle for working parents before the COVID-19 pandemic. It has worsened since. Reports indicate that up to 10 percent of Maine child care centers have closed since the pandemic started. Others, such as Miss Jordyn’s in Caribou, have lost numerous teachers. Our state is at a crisis point.

 For Maine businesses, a strong child care system is crucial to a robust workforce. With access to high-quality child care, Mainers can be employed, focus better while at work knowing their kids are in good hands, and for some parents, further their education so they — and Maine employers — can grow and succeed.

 High-quality child care programs like the successful, community-focused program LD 1712 is modeled after also help many kids gain key developmental skills. These skills help kids do better in school and can even change the trajectory of their lives by giving them a strong start. When we set young kids up to succeed, their futures are brighter and our state’s families, schools, communities, employers and economy are stronger. 

Plus, making sure all kids have the opportunity for a good start is the right thing to do.

 With the next session of the Maine State Legislature beginning in January, I want to thank President Jackson for his efforts. Together, let’s continue working to strengthen Maine’s child care system, including its workforce, with the sense of priority the system deserves — a priority that is shared by many Maine families, workers, policymakers and employers alike.

 Dana Connors
President and CEO, Maine State Chamber of Commerce
and member, ReadyNation

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