Maine DOE and DHHS ink pledge on early childhood learning

A little over a year ago, Maine scored high, but not high enough, on its application for a Race to the Top grant to promote advances in the state’s early childhood learning systems. We and our counterparts at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, who worked collaboratively to develop the plan, held a press conference and pledged to move forward with as much of the plan as we could, even though we would not receive any federal funding.

We felt good about our plan and were committed to moving it forward.

I’m pleased to announce that Commissioner Mary Mayhew and I have signed a joint memorandum that highlights the formation of the State Agency Interdepartmental Early Learning team and encourage the state’s entire early childhood system to share in this effort. Based on the Race to the Top application, the interagency team will work to create a unified system to serve children from birth to age five across the Maine Department of Education and the Maine DHHS.

More will be coming soon, including a new website showing the work in this area. It won’t be a Maine DOE or DHHS website, but rather a joint website that reflects the interagency nature of the work. Thanks to all of you who participate in this work – we look forward to building on our work, together.

Here is the text of the memorandum signed by me and Commissioner Mayhew:

JOINT MEMORANDUM

TO: Staff of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education Early Childhood Programs

FROM: Stephen L. Bowen, Commissioner of Education, and Mary Mayhew, Commissioner of Health and Human Services

DATE: January 22, 2013

RE: State Agency Interdepartmental Early Learning Team as an Administrative Governance Structure

Maine’s commitment to high-quality early learning and development experiences can be found at all levels of Maine government.

Across the state, school systems, cities and towns want to ensure a return on their significant investment in education. In Maine’s House and Senate chambers, lawmakers want to ensure scarce taxpayer resources are spent wisely. And in State agency offices, officials want to ensure equal access to, and efficient delivery of, high-quality services for children, especially those with high needs.

Based on the need to share and maximize resources, ensure consistent quality of programming, and better serve high-needs children and their educators, the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services have laid the groundwork for coordinated management of the variety of early learning and development programs they oversee through the State Agency Interdepartmental Early Learning team (SAIEL).

SAIEL’s purpose is to provide a strong governance structure between the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. Its goals are to ensure interagency coordination, streamline decision-making, allocate resources effectively, incorporate findings from the various demonstration projects statewide and create long term sustainability for its early learning and development reform.

The intent of the SAIEL is to take a patchwork of early learning and development programs funded through a variety of local, State and federal sources and move them in the same direction toward a uniform standard of quality and transparency.

An early childhood work plan, developed and based on the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant priorities (see www.maine.gov/education/fouryearold/racetothetop/), will serve as the blueprint for creating a unified system to serve children from birth to age five across the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

This unified system will share a common definition of quality and allow for greater sharing of resources – including funding, professional development and best practices – so children across the state from families with high needs will get the skills they need to be successful in kindergarten.

We enthusiastically support the implementation of this governance structure and encourage members of the early childhood statewide system to work with SAIEL to refine Maine’s system.  More information on SAIEL’s structure can be found at www.maine.gov/doe/saielgroups/index.html.

We look forward to achieving our goal of creating a single and aligned, high-performing system dedicated to preparing all children for successful and seamless entry into the K-12 system.

3 responses to “Maine DOE and DHHS ink pledge on early childhood learning

  1. Susan Graham-Rent, Early Childhood Department Chair, KU Maine

    How can interested parties get involved?

  2. SAIEL is a good start but we need to look beyond intergovernmental agency cooperation and partner with more entities to solve our social and educational problems. I point to the example described in David Bornstein’s article in the New York Times on March 7, 2011, in which he describes the “Strive Together” partnership in Cincinnati and two neighboring cities in Kentucky. This partnership focuses on helping young people “achieve success from ‘cradle to career’” I hope SAIEL will be the beginning of a similar endeavor here in Maine.

  3. This is great news! I applaud the State for moving forward to address the needs in Early Childhood Education. I look forward to future updates.

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