Maine Gov. Paul LePage is proposing that the state’s school districts begin providing special education services for 3-to-5 year olds, as school districts do in most states.
Currently, the state education department contracts with the state’s Child Development Services program to provide early intervention, such as psychological services and speech and occupational therapy.
Funding that currently flows to that program to serve young children would likely be redirected to school districts, but questions remain about whether districts currently have the staff and resources to serve that population of students, according to Bangor Daily News.
Districts that don’t currently offer preschool programs would likely have to make changes to their facilities to accommodate younger children. According to the article, the transition could take a few years, but districts would also need to implement communications plans to make sure parents knew where to get their children screened for services.
School district officials would also have to hire educators with expertise in special education and in early-childhood education, possibly working with the state’s higher education system to see if there are enough pre-service programs to meet the demand.
Some districts operate “inclusive” preschool programs, which enroll children without special needs in the same classrooms as those requiring special education services. Researchers have found that children with delays benefit by learning alongside typically developing children. In addition, children without special needs benefit by learning interpersonal skills, as well as maturity, self-confidence and compassion.