The Pew Center on the States’ Pre-K Now campaign last week brought together education leaders, advocates, business leaders, and national and state policy makers to celebrate significant accomplishments in the pre-k movement and highlight Pre-K Now’s capstone report, “Transforming Public Education: Pathway to a Pre-K-12 Future.”
Vermont’s accomplishment in pre-k public policy was highlighted as Governor Shumlin delivered the keynote speech. “Perhaps because I was a kid who learned differently, I understand how vital it is that we get all kids off to a good start. Thanks to the hard work of Pew and all of you with the Pre-K Now Campaign, many more are starting to appreciate how valuable early learning can be. I am convinced that when our kids arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, they will have more successful educational and professional futures as a result.”
As recognition for the role it played in Vermont advocacy for better pre-k public policy, leaders from the Vermont Business Roundtable attended, with VBR Board Chair Steve Voigt, President and CEO of King Arthur Flour, invited to introduce the Vermont Governor. Voigt stated “The Vermont Business Roundtable has long understood that the best way to provide children with a successful start in life and build the productive workforce of the future was to champion a policy shift towards improving both the access to and quality of early education. It has been our highest policy priority for the last five years.”
Pre-K Now was designed as a 10-year catalytic effort, grounded in research, to spark the early learning movement by bringing together different voices and supporting strategic advocacy efforts to advance high-quality voluntary pre-k for three- and four-year olds. This December, Pre-K Now will mark its 10th anniversary, wrapping up a decade of state and federal policy wins.
Also attending the meeting was Lisa Ventriss, President of Vermont Business Roundtable. Ventriss helped lead a coalition of children’s advocates, public educators, business leaders and providers to improve access and funding to pre-k programs. After the meeting, she noted “The Pre-K Now Campaign was helpful to our work in that it provided the research necessary to make an economic case for early education investments.”
Vermont is one of eleven states nationwide to provide funding to allow towns to offer pre-k for all as a voluntary program for families. In 2011, 78% of towns chose to offer pre-k as part of educational offerings in public schools and/or private pre-k providers. Ventriss commented “We’re hoping that eventually every child will have this opportunity, if their parents wish it for them. We’re working with communities that do not yet offer these important programs to encourage them to view the well-researched benefits.”