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Governor Mills’ Budget Includes Major Investments in Maine Schools, Students, and Educators

Yesterday, Governor Mills released her administration’s budget proposal for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024-2025 biennium. The proposal includes major investments in Maine’s schools, students, and educators and builds on the historic progress made on education investment throughout her administration.

“Governor Mills has made Maine’s public schools, students, and educators a top priority. She raised minimum teacher pay and covered those additional costs to support local communities. She is also the only Governor who fulfilled the State’s obligation to fund 55 percent of the cost of education,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “From supporting nutritious meals for all students to investing in innovative educational opportunities, this administration has made bold, historic investments in education and this budget builds on that extraordinary progress.”

Education Proposals in Governor Mills’ Budget:

  • Maintaining 55 Percent Education Funding: $101 million to continue meeting the State’s obligation to pay 55 percent of local education costs.
  • Funding Free School Meals: $58 million to fully fund universal free meals for students in public schools and for publicly funded students in approved private schools.
  • Expanding Pre-K: $10.5 million to make pre-kindergarten more available and more accessible across Maine.
  • Strengthening Child Care: $7.8 million to fully fund the salary supplements for child care workers enacted in the FY 2022 supplemental budget, ensuring that caregivers of young children continue to receive increased pay for their vital work helping Maine children develop and thrive.
  • Continuing Free Community College: $15 million to continue providing up to two years of free community college for all students from the high school graduating classes of 2024 and 2025.
  • Supporting Higher Education: $41 million to support a 4.5 increase for Maine’s public higher education institutions, including the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, and Maine Maritime Academy.
  • Improving Higher Education Affordability: $10 million to increase the Maine State Grant Program’s maximum award from $2,500 to $3,000. The Maine State Grant Program provides need-based grants to Maine undergraduate students to help with the cost of higher education. If approved by the Legislature, Governor Mills will have tripled the Maine State Grant Program from $1,000 to $3,000 during her time in office.

Educators and Education Leaders Praise Governor Mills’ Education Investments:

“MEA is glad to see the continuation of the full 55% state funding for public schools in the Governor’s budget. The other supports for students and public education in the budget—universal school meals, support for higher education, increased accessibility of pre-K—are all important to the success of Maine’s students and demonstrate the Governor’s commitment to public education and educators,” said Grace Leavitt, President of Maine Education Association.

“With this budget, Governor Mills continues to deliver on her promise to invest in our schools, educators, and students. Maine’s superintendents welcome the Governor’s efforts to ensure the state continues to meet its obligation to pay 55 percent of education funding and provide universal meals to our students,” said Eileen King, Executive Director of Maine School Superintendents Association. “This budget also makes critical investments in programs such as pre-k that will have both immediate and long-term benefits for our students and communities.”

“The Governor has been true to her word since she was elected in her support of public education, the teachers in the classroom, and the students we serve by proposing funding that includes maintaining the state’s obligation to fund public education at 55%, providing $58 million for universal free meals in public schools and approved private schools and expanding support for pre-kindergarten programs,” said Steven Bailey, Executive Director of Maine School Boards Association.

“Educate Maine once again applauds Governor Mills for her focus on strengthening education in our state, at all levels, and building pathways between strong schools and a vibrant Maine workforce. The sustained commitment to maintaining 55% state education funding, universal free meals for students, and salary supplements for child care workers are essential to the success of our learners,” said Dr. Jason Judd, Executive Director of Educate Maine. “Strong investments in higher education are necessary for Maine to meet our education attainment goal of 60% by 2025 in order to meet the needs of our economy. Free community college, much needed additional funding for public higher education, and the increase in the Maine State Grant Program make a bold statement that Maine is serious about providing opportunities for people to reach their highest academic and economic potential. We should be proud that, as a state, we are focusing our resources to ensure more equitable and inclusive outcomes for communities across Maine.”

“Investing in the educators who provide care and education for Maine’s youngest children is foundational to building a strong early childhood education system,” said Tara Williams, Executive Director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. “We thank Governor Mills for her commitment to continue to fund educator salary supplements and invest in this crucial workforce behind the workforce.”

“We are pleased that the Governor’s budget continues to highlight the importance of investing in systems and services that support the well-being of Maine children and families,” said Stephanie Eglinton, Executive Director of the Maine Children’s Alliance. “Wage supplements for early educators, expanded public pre-school, maintaining the state’s share of public school funding, and universal free school meals help ensure that young children have a strong foundation for learning and healthy development. For families challenged with behavioral health needs or substance use disorder, ensuring supportive services are available and accessible is critical to child safety and family well-being.”

“The affordable, high-quality postsecondary education and workforce training provided by Maine’s public universities is the most effective path to social mobility for Mainers and economic prosperity for our state,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “In direct response to the needs of Maine’s people and employers, the 130th Legislature and Gov. Mills made historic investments in public education, especially from pre-kindergarten to community college. I applaud Gov. Mills for the measured budget she released today that builds on those investments and further strengthens pathways to college and great-paying Maine careers. If supported by the Legislature, these additional appropriations will enable UMS to sustain our universities where they are while making strategic investments for the future, meet our obligations to fairly compensate our world-class faculty and staff, and maintain Maine’s national leadership in access and affordability while improving student enrollment and success.”

“Small businesses account for more than 99% of private enterprise in the state and employ more than half of all working Mainers. Many lack their own research and development capacity and, thus, uniquely rely on the expertise and facilities of our public universities to develop the talent, technology, and new and improved products and processes they need to be competitive in an increasingly global marketplace,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, who serves as president of the University of Maine and the vice chancellor for research and innovation for the University of Maine System. “Consistent with long-standing calls from the private sector to increase Maine’s economic competitiveness by boldly increasing public investment in public university R&D, the additional appropriations for MEIF proposed by Gov. Mills will allow our universities to better prepare our graduates to be leaders and innovators in the Maine workforce for today and tomorrow, and help Maine companies grow and create more Maine jobs, all while sustaining the state’s abundant natural resources and special quality of life.”

“We’re very grateful Governor Mills supports funding the Free College scholarship at Maine’s community colleges for another two years. Free community college lets students start their lives off right, with a degree or certificate in hand that prepares them for good-paying jobs in dozens of Maine industries or transfer to a four-year college,” said Maine Community College System President David Daigler. “This is the sort of smart state investment in Maine’s young people that provides tremendous benefits to our local communities and the state’s economy.”

“On behalf of thousands of Maine Maritime Academy alumni and supporters throughout the state, we thank Governor Mills for a proposed budget that helps us build toward the future,” said Jerry Paul, President of Maine Maritime Academy. “Her step forward on critical budget needs allows us to continue our ranking as the ‘#1 College in America for Return on Investment for low income students’ as we provide a world-class education and position ourselves as a leader for maritime industry innovation and workforce development, contributing to Maine’s place in a global economy.”

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