Vermonters headed to State House to ‘Rally for Kids’ on March 15
Rally to take place during Early Childhood Day at the Legislature
Early childhood advocates will gather on the steps of the Vermont State House on March 15 at 1 PM at the Rally for Kids. Their message to legislators: We must prioritize children and increase investments in high-quality, affordable child care to ensure every Vermont child gets a strong start.
About 200 Vermonters are expected to come out for the Rally, which is being held as part of Early Childhood Day at the Legislature (ECDL), an annual day of advocacy bringing together hundreds of early childhood professionals, parents, employers, policymakers and community members to focus on early childhood issues. ECDL is organized by the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance, Let's Grow Kids and Building Bright Futures.
The Rally for Kids is a new addition to ECDL this year. Advocates will congregate on the State House steps for a peaceful demonstration and listen to speakers discussing the importance of investing in early childhood.
Trisha Scharf, the owner of a 4-star early childhood center in Williston, will be one of the speakers at the rally. “It breaks my heart when I have to turn families away because I don’t have any space available for their children. Unfortunately, this is an everyday occurrence,” Scharf said.
Scharf will speak about losing qualified, experienced teachers to other professions because they simply can’t earn a livable wage in child care. At the same time, parents who are already spending up to 40% of their household income on child care can’t afford to pay more.
“Now is the time for action. We have a governor who highlighted the need to expand Vermont’s early care and learning programs in his inaugural and budget addresses. And right now the Legislature is considering a significant funding increase to help more families access and afford high-quality early care. It’s critical that we keep this momentum going. The Rally for Kids will help us demonstrate the growing public will to prioritize Vermont’s kids,” said Let’s Grow Kids Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire.
Let’s Grow Kids is part of a group through the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance advocating for an increase of $9.5 million into Vermont’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP), which provides tuition assistance for families making 300% of the federal poverty level or less. Unfortunately, the program has been underfunded for several years. This lack of investment is evident by the fact that almost 80% of Vermont infants and toddlers likely to need care don’t have access to high-quality programs, which is just one of the findings from Let’s Grow Kids’ Stalled at the Start report.
Vermont Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care issued a final report in December calling for significant investments in Vermont’s early care and learning system to address issues of quality, access and affordability. A $9.5 million increase in CCFAP funding would represent an important first step to implementing some of the Commission’s short-term recommendations.
In early February, Vermont Business Roundtable’s Research and Education Foundation released its own report, which was based on the Blue Ribbon Commission’s work. The report, titled Vermont’s Early Care and Learning Dividend, found that every dollar invested to expand Vermont’s early care and learning programs, per the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations, would yield a $3.08 return. The report states that Vermont’s economy would reap net benefits of $1.3 billion over the next 60 years as benefits continued to accrue throughout the working lifetime of the children who received that care.
During Town Meeting Day on March 7, 170 Let’s Grow Kids’ volunteers will be talking to their neighbors at polling places across the state and will help build awareness for the Rally for Kids at ECDL. Volunteers will be asking Vermonters to sign Let’s Grow Kids’ Petition in support of increasing public investments in high-quality, affordable child care. (The Petition can be signed online at http://www.letsgrowkids.org/#pledge).
“Vermonters care about our kids, but we’re consistently underfunding a critical system that supports their healthy development. We’re calling on legislators to make our young children a priority. The Rally for Kids and ECDL on March 15 provide an incredible opportunity to speak out,” Freedner-Maguire said.
About Let’s Grow Kids
Let’s Grow Kids is a public awareness and engagement campaign about the important role that high-quality, affordable child care can play in supporting the healthy development of Vermont’s children during their first five years—the most important years for laying a foundation for future success in relationships, school and life. Let’s Grow Kids is working with Vermont communities, organizations, businesses and individuals to create positive lasting change that will allow all of our children to succeed in life. Let’s Grow Kids is an initiative of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children with support the Turrell Fund. For more information visit www.letsgrowkids.org.