High pre-k expulsion rate calls for greater support

Bringing greater support to Maine preschools

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – If you have young kids you probably know what it is like dealing with them misbehaving, but probably not to the same level as local preschools and daycare centers.

A first-of-its-kind study by the Yale University Child Study Center found that Maine had the second-highest preschool expulsion rate in the country back in 2005.

Now more recent research, in collaboration with Maine Children’s Growth Council and the National Center for Children in Poverty have found a trend in challenging and disruptive child behavior in childcare centers in Maine, resulting in children being removed from the programs.

It found that 92% of teachers in Maine reported at least one child showing “challenging behavior” in the last 12 months. 15% pulled the child out of the program entirely.

“We have. It’s not too common for us, but sometimes we can’t meet the learning style of the child,” Tami Campbell said.

Campbell has owned and operated Highland Pre-School in Hampden for 34 years. She says she's noticed a difference over those years in child behavior—something she attributes to a faster-paced world with more technology and busy lifestyles.

"It's really children with behavioral problems that we need the extra support in the classrooms for,” she said.

Maine Children’s Growth Council and Maine Children’s Alliance are pushing for legislation to fix the problem. The fear is that those children will fall through the crack.

"If you're struggling with managing your emotions and your behaviors, you're not going to be ready to learn. You're going to struggle,” Rita Furlow said.

Furlow works for the Maine Children’s Alliance and has been at the forefront of a two-year effort to craft a bill that they hope would form a task force to create a program designed to bring support to parents and preschool teachers through qualified consultants.

There are at least two independent groups that do that kind of work in the state now, but the Maine Children’s Alliance sees a greater need statewide.

Furlow said the resources now for one on one support are limited.

Head Start programs in the state, however, tend to have more resources than the average independent center. The do not expel children.

"We don't ask them to leave. We may find better more appropriate programs for them, but we wouldn't ask them to leave,” Penquis COO Heidi LeBlanc said.

Still, that is a concern among advocates too. Their aim is to keep kids from bouncing around between programs and providers, and instead teach them the skills necessary to adapt to the learning environment they are in.

LeBlanc feels that if we pay for this kind of emotional support for kids now, it could help solve a much bigger problem here in Maine.

“Families are not going to move to Maine if it doesn't look like we're investing in our education system, and that includes early childhood education,” she said.

That is why Heidi LeBlanc also supports finding a solution for both programs like federally-funded programs like Penquis Head Start as well as and private centers like Campbell’s

"If they could provide us that for private programs like ours I'm sure no one would turn it down,” Campbell said. "However, there's always the issue of who is going to pay for it."

There are other states that have already implemented similar programs, including Connecticut.

State Sen. Cathy Breen, who is sponsoring the legislation, told NEWS CENTER that the bill is still in the works and that specific costs of such a program have yet to be determined.

Breen said the final report and legislation is expected to presented at the end of the month.

Copyright 2017 WLBZ


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