A Bright Light in Dark Times
Yesterday's announcement that Vermont schools will be closed for the rest of the year and that child care programs will be open only to essential personnel until further notice hit hard.
While absolutely the right decision for our public health, it's worth taking a moment to recognize the harsh reality this brings into focus, both in understanding the disruption we will all experience in our daily lives, and the longevity of this crisis. Kids and families across Vermont—including mine—are already feeling the loss of daily connections with the friends, teachers, and members of our educational communities that we were used to seeing every day.
And, yet, in yesterday's news, there were some bright spots.
First, there are the early childhood educators around the state who are pitching in to ensure essential workers can do their jobs supporting Vermonters' health, safety, and basic needs. Yesterday, the state announced much-needed financial support for child care programs playing this critical role. That's good news for the children of essential workers who will get the stability they need during these uncertain times, for their parents who can focus on the important roles they have to play and for all of us who are relying on these essential workers to help Vermont weather this crisis.
Second, with the establishment of the COVID-19 Child Care Stabilization program, Vermont is the first state in the nation to commit to ensuring child care programs and early childhood educators are ready to reopen when the time is right. With reduced payments from families and additional support from the state, child care programs should be able to continue paying their bills, including the wages of early childhood educators during the months ahead. This investment is being made because our families, our employers, and Vermont's economy will need child care programs to reopen and the staff who love, care for, and teach our youngest children to return.
Vermont is leading the way in addressing the needs of families with young children and the early childhood educators who serve them when facing the COVID-19 health crisis. (Click here to read what the executive order means for families and child care programs.) This glimmer of light in dark times makes me so proud to be a Vermonter, and so grateful for those in the early childhood field serving our families, for the families doing their part to help support the programs they love through this crisis, and for the state officials who understood this critical work and took swift action. And I am especially proud that our state leaders' bold decision was informed by YOUR tireless efforts over the years to ensure that Vermonters appreciate both the essential role and financial vulnerability of child care programs in our state.
As I turn my attention to balancing the needs of my Beau and Wesley at home with the ongoing work of LGK in these turbulent times, I am comforted knowing that the early childhood education system, something that we all rely on, will still be there when we get through this.
by Aly Richards, CEO of Letâ€™s Grow Kids and a Save the Children Changemaker for Children.