Mar 13, 2015Burlington Free Press
Dee Smith

I am writing this letter in support of the governor’s formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to research financing options for affordable, high quality programs for Vermont’s children. It is clearly time for the State of Vermont to prioritize this issue for a host of reasons. 

First, it is our responsibility as a society to ensure all Vermont children have access to the highest quality early care and education programs. High quality programs sustain children’s natural curiosity to learn by offering environments that create rich learning opportunities. They nurture children to become active citizens who understand they can make a difference in others’ lives. The education and welfare of all our children will directly impact the future of Vermont and the quality of life for generations to come. The need for high quality, affordable early care and education is a moral necessity.
Second, we know from current research that high quality early care and education has life-long implications. Very young children in quality settings learn to collaborate, cooperate, and support one another’s learning in all domains of development.  Our next generation will require these skills to negotiate the increasingly complex political, economic, and environmental terrain of the future. The need for high quality, affordable early care and education is a societal necessity.
Third, high quality care is not cheap. Licensed early childhood teachers must be paid at rates comparable to K-12 educators with similar benefits. Child-adult ratios must be met. Equipping and maintaining rich, engaging learning environments with trained staff that meet licensing standards requires budgeting. That said, the costs of inadequate or sub-standard care are even higher in terms of expenditures related to later, necessary interventions that attempt to compensate for our failure to invest in children when the opportunity is most economical and the investment has the greatest potential for success. The need for the best high quality, affordable early care and education is a Vermont necessity.
The time to change our priorities about the importance of quality early experiences for our youngest Vermonters in now. That is why I support the governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission for accessible and affordable childcare for all. 

Dee Smith of Grand Isle is co-program and pedagogical leader of the Campus Children's School, Early Childhood Program, University of Vermont in Burlington.


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