Business Leaders Lend Support to Early Childhood Investments

(Manchester, VT) Tough economic times require business and government leaders to rethink public policy and not only change the ways in which we deliver public services, but to build capacity for future success. According to Bill Stritzler, Managing Partner with Smugglers’ Notch Resort, and chair of the Vermont Business Roundtable, “Investments in education should be our first economic development strategy.”

In recognition that education transformation must begin with a strong foundation of high quality early learning experiences, Lisa Ventriss, President of the Vermont Business Roundtable (Roundtable), announced today a new partnership, Pre-K Vermont, between a coalition of early education advocates and her organization. “If we are to meaningfully address the escalating costs of our correctional and social welfare programs, and improve educational outcomes, we need to improve our investments in younger children. Early education helps children enter school ready to learn and makes them ten times less likely to be retained in first grade. Controlling costs in public education, while avoiding the stigma that children take with them after being held back, is very important.”

The Vermont Business Roundtable has long been recognized as a leader in public policy development for an array of issues from education to the environment. The organization’s efforts contributed to the passage of Act 62 in 2007, which allows towns to invest in early learning programs.

The new partnership announced today will be funded through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Partnership for America’s Economic Success and Pre-K Now. The Roundtable will become the new sponsor of Pre-K Vermont, an organization dedicated to increasing access and quality to high quality pre-k programs statewide, with members from business, advocacy, public education, and higher education.

The partnership will develop public policy recommendations regarding early childhood investments and share these with public leaders.

Act 62 Background:

  • This year a pre-k enrollment cap will be removed for towns with schools deemed to be “underperforming”.
  • Act 62 was signed into law on June 1, 2007. It received strong support from parents and educators, the Vermont Business Roundtable and other business leaders, law enforcement, leaders in education and medicine, along with community leaders across the state.
  • Under the legislation, pre-k programs meeting specified quality standards will be allowed funding for 10 hours per week, if local school districts approve. Programs are capped to allow roughly half of the three and four year olds, or all of the four year olds in each district, but districts can also choose to fund all children.
  • The bill was passed as a result of a legislative study performed by the Pre-K Study Committee, which included review of four decades of research and testimony from dozens of experts from inside and outside of Vermont.
  • Both public and private providers will be qualified to receive funding, but no school district is required to offer pre-k programs. The pre-k program is also voluntary for families.

Members of Pre-K Vermont include representatives from Vermont Business Roundtable, Kids are Priority One, University of Vermont, Vermont Superintendents Association, Head Start, Building Bright Futures, Vermont School Boards Association, private providers, and Northern Lights Career Development Center.

The Roundtable is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of 100 CEOs of Vermont’s top private and nonprofit employers, representing geographic diversity and all major sectors of the Vermont economy. The Roundtable is committed to sustaining a sound economy and preserving Vermont’s unique quality of life by studying and making recommendations on statewide public policy issue to benefit all Vermonters.