BURLINGTON— In his 2016 budget, Governor Peter Shumlin has put a spotlight on a key issue facing Vermonters: the importance of high quality, affordable childcare. Let’s Grow Kids, a statewide public education campaign that aims to raise understanding of the importance of the earliest years in the lives of Vermont’s children, applauds the Governor for his continued support and leadership in raising this topic.
Let’s Grow Kids is deeply appreciative of Governor Shumlin for supporting the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to research financing options for high-quality, affordable childcare—an essential and responsible next step towards achieving statewide access to high quality, affordable childcare for all.
Childcare is a significant issue for the majority of Vermont parents who rely on out-of-home-care for their youngest children. Multiple scientific studies have shown that the earliest years in life—when the brain is developing most rapidly—present the greatest opportunity for the healthy development of our children. This healthy development is dependent on quality experiences that include safe, stimulating and stable places to live, learn and play during this critical time. Too many of Vermont’s children do not have access to these quality early experiences for two reasons:
- The cost of childcare is currently unaffordable for parents, across all socio-economic levels.
- The costs associated with developing quality programming are unaffordable for providers, meaning that these costs cannot be passed along to already financially strapped parents.
In Vermont, more than 26,000 children under the age of 6 are in need of childcare. According to Building Bright Futures, licensed childcare providers have the capacity to serve only 40 percent of these children (Building Bright Futures: Early Childhood Budget Report – FY2013). “Finding quality childcare was like having a part-time job,” according to Alison Maynard, a local mother of two. “For 5 months before my first child was born, I called and visited dozens of providers and only confirmed a spot for my son the week before he was born. Now he’s in kindergarten and thriving, but other families aren’t as lucky as we have been.”
Inadequate childcare is also an expensive problem for all Vermonters. In our state, 40 to 50 percent of children are not sufficiently prepared to enter kindergarten. The cost of remediating this problem after the fact is many times greater than the cost of ensuring that kids are well prepared to enter kindergarten in the first place.
The work of the Commission will build upon years of careful thinking and planning done by early childhood leaders in the state, and will support and expand the State’s achievements in winning the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge and Pre-K Expansion grants from the U.S. Department of Education.