By Angelo Lynn
The organization Let’s Grow Kids has been at the forefront of an effort to establish legislation that makes having children in Vermont more affordable and, as it should be, desirable.
It recent years it has not been affordable, and therefore, to many, not a desirable option. That’s to Vermont’s great detriment. If the state is to have a promising future, it’s an issue that must be fixed.
Progress is being made.
In this past legislative session, H.171, aka the child care bill, was passed with significant bipartisan support. And, as Let’sGrowKids.org said in a recent statement, “the bill lays the foundation for the accessible, affordable, high-quality, equitable system our families and businesses need in the future. It also makes $12.7 million in investments now to stabilize Vermont’s early childhood education system.”
The bill charts a course for the future by setting a number of goals:
• That a Vermont family will spend no more than 10% of their annual income on child care;
• That early educators will be fairly compensated and well supported;
• That the state will work to identify a stable, long-term funding source for a transformed child care system.
Specifically, according to LetsGrowKids.org, the legislation appropriated funding in four areas:
• Family Affordability: $5.5 million to continue the transformation of Vermont’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program. This funding will expand eligibility to more families, reduce family co-pays, and increase reimbursements paid to child care programs. This means many Vermont families will pay less out of pocket for childcare, more families will be eligible for childcare support, and programs will receive higher reimbursements for their essential work.
• Workforce Stabilization: $2.5 million to stabilize and strengthen our early childhood education workforce through scholarships and a student loan repayment support program. This means current early childhood educators will be supported to keep doing what they love, and prospective early childhood educators will have access to resources to help them enter the field.
• Infrastructure Improvement: $4.5 million to upgrade the failing IT system used to administer Vermont’s early childhood education system. This will make things easier for programs, early childhood educators, and families, and is critical to the future health of our childcare system.
• Systems Analysis: $200,000 to study the way Vermont’s childcare system works, and to develop recommendations on how to strengthen and streamline the way we administer and structure the system in the future.
Coupled with federal legislation led by Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders that expanded the child tax benefit from $2,000 to $3,600 per child annually, families in Vermont will soon have substantially more financial resources to raise their children, and will also have a childcare system that prioritizes a quality early education.
If the state can sustain that effort and pull it off, it’s yet another compelling reason to expect the state to attract growth from other areas of the country for years to come.