Jul 27, 2022

VTDigger: Richards & Garder: State report confirms child care system is broken, now is the time to fix it

Earlier this month, a report commissioned by the Vermont Legislature declared our state’s child care system to be “fundamentally broken,” validating what so many of us have known and experienced. The study, which is titled Vermont Child Care and Early Childhood Education Systems Analysis(link is external), was based on interviews with more than 85 early childhood education stakeholders and dozens of previous state reports and data on the topic.

Now that the report is here, we can firmly say that it details what we’ve known for years: our child care system isn't working for anyone – not for children, families, essential early childhood educators, and certainly not for our workforce and economy.

The current state system is severely under-invested in, does not provide enough child care access, and does not allow early childhood educators to be professionally compensated. If we want to build a strong economy and encourage young people to stay or locate here to raise their families, fundamental, systems change must happen now.

The report was required by law under H.171/Act 45 – the state’s child care bill passed in 2021 with nearly unanimous support by the legislature – and marks an important step in the movement to transform our state’s struggling child care infrastructure.

The law called for a formal review to examine Vermont’s early childhood system and then make recommendations for how it might be improved, both in its oversight and its funding.

The analysis called for the current governance structure of early childhood education to be replaced by a new standalone entity with dedicated and empowered leadership focused entirely on child care and early childhood education. We agree this is the right approach and one that will streamline services, improve communication to child care programs, and ultimately will create better outcomes for children, families, early childhood educators, and our economy.

Additionally, we know that public investment is essential to make this transformation happen. And, on top of that, research shows that investing in a comprehensive, affordable, accessible child care system will create jobs, grow the workforce, and support a strong and resilient Vermont economy for generations to come. That is why business leaders from all corners of Vermont are stepping up declaring their support for public investment in our state’s child care system. We know that our state’s economic future depends on access to and the availability of high-quality, affordable child care options for the workforce.

During the current election season, we encourage Vermonters to talk openly and directly with their candidates for office, both incumbents and first-timers, to be sure they are committed to making meaningful progress on child care if elected to serve. That means adopting changes to the current system, which is disjointed today, and making a commitment to ongoing, sustainable public investment.

Until we invest in and create a comprehensive child care system that meets the needs of children and their families and fairly compensates early childhood educators – parents won’t be able to re-enter the workforce, employers won’t be able to fill positions, young families won’t be able move to or stay in Vermont, and our economy will struggle. The recommendations in this report, which aim to improve our child care system, can only become reality with long-term public investment.

Dimitri Garder is the Chief Executive Officer of Global-Z International, Inc. in Bennington, VT and co-chair of the Vermont Business Roundtable Early Care and Learning Taskforce and Aly Richards is Chief Executive Officer of Let’s Grow Kids, a nonprofit organization working to ensure affordable access to high-quality child care for all Vermont families by 2025.

Read the original op-ed in VTDigger here.

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