Budget proposal includes additional $9.6 million for early care and learning
In his budget address this afternoon, Governor Phil Scott outlined his plan for increasing investments in Vermont’s early care and learning programs. His proposal calls for expanding public education to include support for the early care and learning needs of our youngest children.
“Governor Scott’s address underscored his commitment to giving every Vermont child a strong start,” said Let’s Grow Kids Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire. “His recommendation to invest $9.6 million into high-quality early care and learning programs is a game changer for young children and their families who struggle and for supporting the healthy development of Vermont’s children,” Freedner-Maguire said.
The investments are part of what Governor Scott called “a realignment of priorities and spending that allows us to unify the system from early care to higher education and trades training.”
“Our current system is not working to the best of its capacity for our kids, parents, teachers, administrators or taxpayers,” Governor Scott said, adding that we need to rethink how we do things in order to “create the best education system in the nation, give our kids the brightest possible future, and attract more families to Vermont for a stronger economy.”
Governor Scott called on Vermonters to work together and look towards a future that provides every Vermont child the best opportunity for success.
In his address, Governor Scott noted that numerous reports have listed Vermont as being among the least affordable states when it comes to child care. He told the story of a woman in Peacham who was forced to leave her job in the dairy industry after she and her husband discovered that the cost of child care would eat up her entire paycheck.
“We know that middle-income families with two parents and two young children are spending as much as 38% of their income on child care. Meanwhile, child care providers are struggling to stay in the field. That's because the average annual income for a child care worker in Vermont is less than $25,000—often without benefits. Significant investment is long over-due and, frankly, our kids, families, providers and Vermont businesses that rely on a dependable workforce are counting on us to start solving the problem,” Freedner-Maguire said.
In its recent report, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High-Quality, Affordable Child Care
cited research that has found that for every dollar invested into early childhood education programs there is a yield of $4–$9. Yet, nearly half of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need care don’t have access to any regulated child care. And, when it comes to high-quality programs, nearly 80% don’t have access.
A key strategy to address affordability, accessibility and increasing quality in the system is investing in the state’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP), which has been chronically underfunded for several years. CCFAP provides tuition assistance for families who meet certain financial, health, work or education criteria, allowing them to enroll their children in quality child care programs while parents work or attend school.
Right now, only 23% of Vermont families with young children qualify for tuition assistance benefits under CCFAP. Governor Scott’s budget proposal includes a significant $7.5 million funding increase for this program which would expand eligibility to an additional 500 low-income families who don’t currently qualify for assistance.
Governor Scott’s budget proposal also includes funding for grants that would give children from low-income families access to full-day pre-K as well as grant funding for municipal innovation programs.
“We appreciate that the governor is focused on strategic investments that have a comprehensive and systemic impact on supporting our children, working parents, Vermont businesses and the economy. We look forward to working with the Administration and the Legislature as they seek out innovative ways to meet this forward-thinking goal,” Freedner-Maguire said.