Maine Universal Pre-K


  • Public Pre-K


In July 2023, Maine lawmakers passed LD 1799, “An Act to Expand Maine’s High-quality Early Learning and Care for Children by Increasing Public Preschool Opportunities in Communities,” moving Maine toward a mixed-delivery universal prekindergarten (UPK) system accessible to all four-year-old children. UPK is funded by Maine’s school funding formula, with money distributed directly to school districts, who operate classrooms either as stand-alone public programs, in licensed community-based child care programs, or in Head Start programs. 

The bill stipulates that Maine’s UPK program must be accessible to 60% of the state’s four-year-olds by the 2024-25 school year, 80% by the 2025-26 school year, and 100% by the 2026-27 school year. UPK in Maine is funded by the state’s school funding formula, as well as an $8 million federal Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) renewal and funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

LD 1799 also created the Expansion of Public Preschool and Early Care and Education Commission, which was tasked with reporting to legislators on the Department of Education’s efforts to expand UPK across the state. The Commission recommended more funding for ongoing and start-up costs, more flexibility in credentialing early childhood educators, and more coordination to cultivate partnerships between school systems and community providers who provide public prekindergarten. 

As of March 2024, only 43% of Maine public school districts offered UPK. Advocates assert that the biggest barrier to expansion is the state’s education funding formula, because it doesn’t provide enough money for programs to hire the additional staff necessary for early learning programs. Advocates also suggest that the formula incentivizes school districts to open partial-day programs, because they aren’t reimbursed more for full-day programs. 


Maine Senate Democrats. (2023). Senator Vitelli bill to expand access to child care and early education in Maine signed into law.

Davidson, A., & Muhlendorf, A. (2024). Maine Leaders Have Choices to Make About How to Expand Preschool While Maintaining Quality Standards. National Institute for Early Education Research.

Maine State Legislature. (2023). Expansion of Public Preschool and Early Care and Education Commission.

Maine State Legislature. (2023). Summary of LD 1799.

Bartow, A. (2023). Lawmakers work to make preschool available everywhere in Maine. WMTW News 8 Portland.

Feinberg, R. (2024). Why Maine is lagging on its goal of universal pre-K. Maine Public Radio.

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings: High-quality, affordable early education and care supports children’s healthy development and allows families to work, engage in their own educational pursuits, and/or participate in other aspects of community life. To support children and families in these instrumental ways, research suggests there is a need to expand the availability of early education opportunities across the mixed-delivery system.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) show:

  • Families rely on a range of formal (e.g., Head Start, center-based care, public pre-K) and more informal (e.g., home-based, relative care) early education settings; when choosing a setting for their child, families balance many logistical constraints and personal preferences.
  • But for many families – and especially low- and middle-income families – early education choices remain tightly constrained due to issues of affordability and supply.
Learn more about ELS@H findings

Learn more about Maine

Context matters. Visit the Maine profile page to learn more about its demographics, political landscape, early education programs, early education workforce, and funding sources and streams.

Visit the Maine profile here
  • The state population is 1,385,340
  • The percentage of children under age 6 with all available parents in the labor force is 69%
  • The rural percentage is 61.4%