Vermont Business Magazine The question of how Vermont can and should invest in its youngest citizens was a major focus in the State House this legislative session and it’s looking like next year’s budget will include a small but much-needed funding increase for early care and learning programs. As the Legislature adjourns for the year, efforts to make high-quality child care accessible and affordable to all Vermont families who need it will continue moving full steam ahead.
This June, Building Bright Futures (BBF), Vermont’s early childhood public-private partnership and advisor to the Administration and Legislature, is kicking off a statewide process to design Vermont’s future early care and learning system. In its report to the Legislature last December (CLICK HERE), the Blue Ribbon Commission identified a funding gap of $206 million that would need to be filled in order to provide access to high-quality, affordable early care and learning programs for Vermont children birth to five who have all available parents in the labor force.
“We know the wellbeing of Vermont’s communities and our economy rests on our ability to give our youngest citizens a strong start. Last year, Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care put a spotlight on the fact that Vermont needs to increase investments in the state’s early care and learning system to better meet the needs of our young children and their families,” said BBF Executive Director Sarah Squirrell in a press release issued May 15.
In addition to urging the Legislature to make annual, incremental investments into the current early care and learning system, the Commission recognized that solving this problem will require looking at new opportunities in the way Vermont delivers, funds and governs early care and education. The Commission tasked Building Bright Futures with bringing together a diverse group of Vermonters to explore those questions and to create a blueprint for an equitable early care and learning system that meets the needs of children and families. That process is getting underway now and will conclude in time to deliver proposed legislation to the state Legislature no later than January 2019.
“This is about creating an affordable early care and learning system that meets the needs of the Vermont families of today—not the families of 40 years ago. Today, seven out of ten of Vermont children under age six live in families with all available parents in the labor force and these children need access to safe, nurturing early care and learning environments while their parents are at work. We have an opportunity to create an integrated early care and learning system that prepares our youngest citizens for success in school, work and life,” Squirrell said.
Recognizing that early care and learning is a complex arena, BBF is inviting a broad range of stakeholders to the table including everyone from families and early care and learning professionals to representatives from the Agency of Human Services, K-12 public education and higher education systems to health care professionals to business leaders and legislators.
The design process willuse Appreciative Inquiry, which is an approach to complex systems change that emphasizes working from strengths to find new directions for growth, rather than focusing on weaknesses or problems to be solved. Organizations from Walmart to Keurig Green Mountain have used the process to collaborate, innovate, and leverage human possibility toward positive change. Building Bright Futures will lead the process in collaboration with the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College.
Vermonters will have opportunities to get involved throughout this process. To learn more, join BBF Executive Director Sarah Squirrell for an informal Question & Answer Conference Call on June 1. For more information, visit http://buildingbrightfutures.org/build-our-future/.
Vermonters can also get involved by participating in their local BBF Regional Councils. BBF Regional Councils—which consist of a diverse array of representatives from local school districts; law enforcement and criminal justice; business; early care, education and health programs; elected officials; and concerned citizens—meet regularly to identify gaps in local programs and services that support children and families in their communities.
About Building Bright Futures
Building Bright Futures is Vermont’s early childhood public-private partnership established by law to monitor the state’s early care, health and education systems and to advise the Administration and legislature on policy and systems improvements. BBF operates at the state and local level to convene stakeholders and community members with a common goal of meeting the diverse needs of all Vermont children and families.
Source: BBF. 5.15.2017. Learn more at www.buildingbrightfutures.org.