New pre-K report highlights strengths, opportunities

 

Let’s Grow Kids is working to ensure that all children in Vermont have access to the lifelong opportunities we know early childhood education provides. Last week the Agency of Education released a legislative report on Act 166 implementation that makes it clear that universal pre-K is helping Vermont get closer to that vision.

“This report confirms what we’ve heard from parents all over Vermont: that universal pre-K is making a difference in the lives of children and families in terms of access and quality,” states Aly Richards, CEO of Let’s Grow Kids. “The report demonstrates that there are children—particularly low- and middle-income children—who otherwise would not be accessing high-quality early education if not for public pre-K.”

The report acknowledges what we already know from our work: Act 166 was an important step in the right direction but there is still more work to do.

In developing and implementing universal prekindergarten, Vermont policymakers and early education professionals have looked to national best practices. Vermont meets 7 out of the 10 national public pre-K benchmarks, according to the latest state analysis from the National Institute for Early Education Research. Vermont’s enrollment rates for public pre-K are among the highest in the country but the state needs to work harder to ensure there are enough licensed early education teachers across pre-K settings and that these teachers are paid enough to stay in the field. Vermont also needs to make sure that students with individualized education and behavior plans are able to access the same range of pre-K options as their peers. Says Richards, “Getting this right is worth all of our efforts, because our kids are worth it, and we all benefit greatly.”

Let’s Grow Kids hears consistently from parents and early educators around Vermont who see the dramatic impact the law has had in improving access to high-quality early education for all of Vermont’s children. Mariah McGill of Waitsfield is one of those parents:

When Act 166 passed in 2014, my husband and I were living in Boston and longing to return to Vermont to raise our two-year old daughter closer to our families. We were deeply dissatisfied with our child care options in Boston—everything was expensive and with years-long waiting lists. I remember calling my husband from work on the day Act 166 passed and telling him it was a sign that it was time to return to Vermont. We returned to Vermont and were able to enroll our daughter in a high-quality child care program in a private center that operated year-round. When our daughter was old enough, the center helped us access the pre-K funding. The process was seamless and easy. On a practical level, the pre-K funding meant we could afford to enroll our daughter in a higher quality program for less than we were paying for a mediocre program in Boston. On a symbolic level, it meant that Vermont was committed to supporting children and families in concrete, practical ways.

“This new report clearly demonstrates that the core principles of Act 166 are strong, and that children are benefitting. It also clearly delineates areas in which we must continue to make progress to ensure that all of our early education settings are able to focus on the most important part of the work: supporting the learning and development of young children,” said Richards. “We at Let’s Grow Kids are eager to work with our partners and supporters across the state to continue to strengthen universal prekindergarten in Vermont. We owe it to our children, our public schools and our communities to ensure that every child has the strongest possible start and enters kindergarten ready to grow and learn.”

About Let’s Grow Kids
Let’s Grow Kids is a statewide movement to make Vermont the best place to raise a family and our mission is to ensure affordable access to high-quality child care for all Vermont families by 2025. We work with business, education and health care leaders, elected officials and local communities to build a high-quality child care system and our network of over thirty thousand supporters includes dedicated volunteers who advocate for increased public investment in child care to make it affordable for all Vermont families.