Like many children in Maine, I was the beneficiary of a high-quality public education. My high school diploma opened doors that led to jobs in business administration and computing technology. As I got older, I began to realize the value of my efforts in lifelong learning (higher pay, increased responsibility, a range of benefits, and a broader perspective.) Ultimately, at the age of 53, I received my bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.

Public K-12 education may sometimes be taken for granted by many of us, that it will always be there for our children. But will it be excellent? We are today witnessing what can happen to schools without adequate funding: namely, lower scores in grade level reading, writing, math, and critical thinking. Underfunding results in a number of problems: an inability to attract quality educators who can offer interesting and exciting teaching methods that open minds; outdated books, as well as worn and defaced books (remember the awesome feeling of being the first student to use a new book?); lack of sufficient support materials (notebooks, binders, report covers, pens and pencils, paper, computers, etc.) that are vital in providing quality learning opportunities for every student, causing many teachers to spend their own money to provide these basic necessities; crumbling school buildings; and even reduced athletic and extra-curricular activities.

There is nothing more important to the long-term vitality of our state than an educated next generation. But this precious right to a quality public education is not guaranteed and has long been underfunded. For all these reasons, I am so grateful for Governor Mills’ support for, and dedication to, our public schools and our school children.

Under her watch: the State has finally met its obligation to cover 55% of education costs for communities, which means better schools for our kids; the scientifically-proven importance of early childhood education has been recognized by expanding the funding and availability of pre-K programs throughout Maine; and the link between good nutrition and the ability to learn has been recognized by Governor Mills by making sure kids don’t go hungry, so that any Maine student can now get a no-cost breakfast or lunch at school — no questions asked.

In my opinion, there is no better investment than our children, and I’m glad Governor Mills agrees.

Jean Smith