May 18, 2017
The City of Burlington is investing in a new Early Learning Initiative that will provide $500,000 annually in capacity grants to high-quality child care programs in Burlington that serve children from low-income families ages 0 to 3. Mayor Miro Weinberger, speaking at a May 18 press conference, said the funding will begin in fiscal year 2018.
“We must strive to be a city in which every child has an opportunity to succeed, regardless of the means of their parents,” Mayor Weinberger said. “By investing in our youngest children today, we will reap a better educated, healthier, and more just tomorrow.”
Mayor Weinberger talked about the well-documented shortage of high-quality, affordable child care in Burlington, especially for ages 0 to 3. Burlington’s situation is not unique.
Aly Richards, CEO of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children, also spoke at the press conference and provided some alarming statistics. Richards talked about the rapid brain development that takes place during the first few years of life and how early experiences create the foundation for the rest of our lives.
“Where are Vermont children during this critical time for development? Seven out of 10 Vermont children under age six have all parents in the work force, meaning they’re likely to need child care,” Richards said. “I’m sorry to say that 80% of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need care don’t have access to high-quality programs.”
In Chittenden County, 85% of infants likely to need care don’t have access to high-quality programs. Families that are lucky enough to find child care, struggle to afford it. Families are spending up to 40% of their household income on child care. Meanwhile Vermont child care providers, on average, earn less than $25,000 a year.
The Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children provided the City of Burlington with a $122,000 grant in 2015 for planning and designing an Early Learning Initiative pilot. Mayor Weinberger noted the city’s $500,000 annual investment in high-quality child care would not be possible without the early support from and a continued partnership with the Permanent Fund.
In addition to the Permanent Fund, the mayor was joined by several other enthusiastic community partners who spoke at the press conference, including Vermont Business Roundtable President Lisa Ventriss. In February, the Roundtable’s Research and Education Foundation published a report that found every dollar Vermont invests to expand early care and learning programs would yield a $3.08 return.
“Investment in high-quality early care and learning should be the state’s number one economic development strategy,” Ventriss said.
Earlier, Richards talked about high-quality early care and learning as a leverage point that affects everything from making Vermont affordable for young families to live and work here to decreasing skyrocketing costs in special education and health care.
Vermont Agency of Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe warned that if we don’t invest in early care and learning, we’ll never be able to close the achievement gap.
UVM Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Stephen Leffler noted that high-quality, affordable child care was identified as one of the most pressing needs in the Medical Center’s 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment. As the hospital focuses on ways to keep Vermont’s whole population healthy, Leffler said ensuring children have access to high-quality early care and learning in the first 1,000 days of life is crucial to preventing serious health problems later in life.
Burlington YMCA President and CEO Kyle Dodson and Burlington City Councilor Dave Hartnett also spoke at the press conference. To learn more about Burlington’s Early Learning Initiative, read the full announcement on the City of Burlington’s website here: https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/Press/Mayor-Weinberger-Announces-Funding-Plan-for-Early-Learning-Initiative-to-Ensure-All-Burlington