Speaker Fecteau sponsored LD 1652 in support of Maine’s child care workforce. Read his full speech, delivered on the House floor:
Ladies and gentlemen of the House, Madame Speaker, this body can be proud of a strong, bipartisan tradition of supporting Maine’s children and our efforts to make it possible for young families to succeed in this state.
Maine families need access to affordable, high quality child care so parents can go to work knowing their kids are safe, happy, and learning. This is a critical piece of Maine’s economic health.
Maine’s early childhood educators support the development of our children. They are the workforce behind our workforce. They work incredibly hard and deserve access to professional development opportunities and compensation that allows them to support their own families.
Today, we recognize Maine’s child care workforce is at a tipping point. We cannot ignore the workforce challenges child care providers are facing.
This winter, a Caribou provider outlined her struggle to find high-quality educators to work in their center, being clear that this is not a new problem. However, over the last two years, she lost incredible educators because they simply couldn’t make ends meet. Many providers have lost an excellent teacher with a degree in early childhood development to a job that pays a dollar or so more per hour. These are the decisions child care workers have to consider, even though it is heartbreaking to leave the children they love working with.
This is not right.
The true cost of providing high-quality child care — with adequate compensation for extremely hard working teachers — is far higher than what working families can afford. Raising parents’ child care fees to pay educators more is not a workable solution. Increased public investment is needed to raise compensation and give all Maine children with working parents an opportunity to access high quality early education and ensure their kids are prepared for kindergarten. States are recognizing that salary supplement programs are a step forward in addressing the disparity and inequities in our child care system.
Maine’s CTEs train young people for careers in early education. During the public hearing, we heard from a student at Region Two career and technical education center in Houlton who was in the child care program and loved the little ones she worked with immensely. These were her words: “I originally wanted to go to school for early childhood education but when I found out I could get paid more than a childcare provider in another field, I decided to change my major. In childcare, I can make minimum wage and the employer cannot offer more because families are already paying the max amount they can afford. When childcare wages are supplemented, it will make early childhood education a more viable career option for students like me, who have a passion for teaching our youngest and most vulnerable children.”
Maine can recruit and retain this critical workforce so Mainers who are passionate about educating Maine’s kids are able to do the work they love while making ends meet.
This body made an investment in Maine’s child care workforce using one-time American Rescue Plan funds to support Maine’s early educators, this helped the industry, and that support is set to expire in the fall of 2022. This bill would make our continued support for Maine’s child care workforce known.
I applaud the IDEA Committee who unanimously voted to support the bill—members on both sides of the aisle. This is an investment in our future economic well-being and a way to ensure Maine’s kids arrive at kindergarten ready to thrive in school.
This body can ensure that Maine’s CTE students training in early education will be able to do the work they love while making a living in Maine.
This body can show Maine families they deserve to be able to send their kids to great nursery schools and preschools and daycares close to home. When we are successful in recruiting and retaining this critical workforce, it will give Maine families the stability and support they need to raise their families in this great state.
Please join me in supporting the workforce behind our workforce with a vote in favor of the pending motion.