History of Four Year Old Programs
When were 4 year-old public school programs initiated?
In 1981, Title 20-A, Maine Education and School Statutes, Chapter 213: Student eligibility, Section 520, sub. Section 2 (c) was enacted which allowed an individual who would be at least 4 years old on October 15th of the school year to be enrolled in a 2 year early childhood program prior to grade one if one was offered and to be counted for subsidy on the October and April enrollment forms.
In 1983-84, the Department of Education began offeringtwo-year Early Childhood Program grants (requiring matching funds) to school administrative units for the start-up of Early Childhood Programs. The two-year grant programs continued from 1983-84 through 1990-91 assisting 74 school administrative units in developing Early Childhood programs. Some of these early programs were demonstration sites for the High Scope Curriculum. Starting in 1991-92, state funds for start up costs were no longer available but General Purpose Aid continued for existing and new approved programs. Many school administrative units chose not to continue these programs. By 1997-98, there were only twenty seven four year old programs offered throughout the state.
In 2007 the Maine legislature approved a new definition and as per Title 20-A Education, programs for four year old children which are offered through a school administrative district are now defined as a “public preschool program.” Upon approval by the Department of Education, these public preschool programs are eligible for pupil subsidy through the Essential Programs and Services formula.
At least 39 states currently offer a public pre kindergarten program. Maine is one of six states that fund public preschool experiences through a school funding formula. Vermont, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Wisconsin and West Virginia are the others.
There has been renewed interest in public school programs for four- year-old children:
· Educators and the public are interested in applying early brain development research and exploring the role schools play in that area.
· Awareness is increasing around topics such as readiness, equity, and cost benefits of early learning opportunities.
· The ability to access the state share of funding has made it more financially feasible for local districts to fund the public school programs for four-year-old children.
· Declining enrollment in some districts has made more space available in school buildings.
· Parents are looking to their school districts to provide early education opportunities for their four-year-old children.
· Kindergarten teachers are indicating that children are entering kindergarten with a wide range of early childhood experience
· A belief that early intervention leads to a greater likelihood of success in schools.
· By 2003-04, there were 84 Programs operating in 69 districts
· By 2004-05 there were 91 Programs operating in 76 districts.
· By 2006-07 there were 109 Programs operating in 88 districts. Thirty percent of these programs were offered within a community approach by collaborating with other area early care and education programs.
· Maine has 556 elementary schools.