by Mary Barrosse Schwartz, Staff Director, VBR Research & Education Foundation
The Vermont Business Roundtable has long been a champion of early childhood programs that create good outcomes for children. Quality is the issue of course, not just funding. Measurement is the best way to understand the impact of programs, and how to improve outcomes from the significant investments the state and federal government is already making.
During the month of March, Vermont business leaders successfully advocated for increased monitoring of pre-k and home visiting programs using state and federal funding, to understand the scope of the investment, track the process, and to measure the outcomes. The Senate Health and Welfare launched a committee-bill with unanimous support for the VBR recommendations for home visiting programs, and the bill passed by unanimous floor vote in the Senate. House Education included a similar amendment to a pre-k bill.
Tracking the outcomes will require better data collection and reporting from communities, but even more importantly monitoring will allow for continuous quality improvement moving ahead. The Agency of Human Services leaders are committed to this effort, especially given the new era of results-based accountability all states are facing due in part to taxpayer pressure and as a requirement of many federal grants.
The Roundtable has been in a unique position to advocate for smart investments to improve child outcomes from social and education spending. Leaders understand the business sense of CQI and data, and we can speak as major taxpayers who understand that the children in these programs are our employees and employers in coming years.
Non-profit groups like ReadyNation provide business leaders with the tools to advocate for high quality early childhood programs. A recent report and public letter from ReadyNation, and a link may be of interest to VBR members:
- Tomorrow’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Work Force Starts with Early Education http://www.readynation.org/uploads//20130318_ReadyNationSTEMBrieflowresnoendnotes.pdf
- A response to President Obama’s February 14 announcement of increased funding for early childhood – http://www.readynation.org/uploads/db_files/Response%20to%20Obama%20SOTU84.pdf
A link to Professor James Heckman’s early childhood blog. Heckman is a Nobel Prize winning economics professor at University of Chicago http://www.heckmanequation.org/blog