2018 Early Childhood Legislation Recap

This past weekend, the Vermont Legislature adjourned and concluded its work for the 2017–2018 biennium. While key issues like the budget were passed by the Legislature, Governor Scott has publicly stated that he plans to veto a number of bills. As a result, the Legislature will reconvene for a special session next week.

Throughout the 2018 Vermont legislative session, support for early childhood held strong thanks to the hard work of our partners and our rock-star volunteers (like Abby Skidmore and Matthew Stevens (pictured right), Kristy Haapala (below right), and Dawn Irwin, Trish Scharf and Paula Nadeau (bottom left). While we wait to see what will happen during the special session, here’s a quick recap of where we currently stand with issues related to early care and learning.

Vermont State Budget (H. 924)

The budget that passed in the final hours of the 2018 session included some important funding for early care and learning:

  • Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP). The budget includes sustained funding for CCFAP as well as the grant program that was created by the 2017 Legislature to support child care providers who accept infants and toddlers from families participating in CCFAP. This includes $300,000 for the Vermont Child Development Division (CDD) to adjust income eligibility guidelines for CCFAP from 2017 federal poverty guidelines to 2018 federal poverty guidelines, which means that more families will be eligible for the program and some families will be eligible to receive higher financial assistance rates. The budget also allows CDD to spend $2.9 million in new federal funding to increase CCFAP financial assistance rates for infants and toddlers and to hire three new child care licensors.
  • Child Care Demand Study. The budget includes $100,000 for CDD to contract with a research group to study child care arrangements and preferences of Vermont families with young children to better understand the demand for child care in our state. 
  • Pre-K Studies. The budget directs the Joint Fiscal Office to undertake a study “to better understand the relationship between Vermont’s prekindergarten system and the impact on child care and early education facilities not operated by public school districts.” It also includes $100,000 for the Agency of Education, in consultation with the Agency of Human Services, to commission an independent study “to recommend how to more effectively and efficiently provide prekindergarten education.” 

Proposed Changes to Pre-K (S. 257)

Aside from the studies noted above, no major changes were made to Vermont’s current universal pre-K (UPK) program, created in Act 166. Senate bill 257, the miscellaneous education bill that included proposed changes to Vermont’s UPK program, did not pass out of conference committee. It is possible that action may be taken related to pre-K during the special session.

Coordinated public health approach to addressing childhood adversity and promoting resilience (ACES) (S. 261)

The Legislature passed this bill, which creates a new director of trauma prevention and resilience development position in the AHS Secretary’s Office. Among other things, it calls for the new director to compile a status report to the Legislature on the agency’s work on mitigating childhood adversity, including progress on implementing trauma-informed training for child care providers.

Family and Medical Leave Insurance (H. 196)

H.196 passed the Legislature, though the governor has threatened to veto the legislation. The bill, as passed, establishes a state-run family leave insurance program for public and private sector employees in the state. 

The program would cover leave for pregnancy, birth, adoption or foster care—for maternal and paternal leave—or for serious illness or non-work-related injury of the employee’s close family member. The insurance would provide for a maximum of 12 weeks of leave per family for welcoming a new child, and up to six weeks to care for an ill or injured close family member. Compensation would be a 70% wage replacement up to a cap; the insurance program would be financed by a .136% payroll deduction paid by employees on wages up to $150,000.

Thanks to your passionate, tireless work, there are more early childhood champions in the State House than ever before and, with the special session next week and the 2018 elections looming around the corner, we’re well-positioned to achieve real, positive, legislative change for Vermont’s children and families!