Pre-K Advocacy Organization Applauds Governor’s Call for Increased Investment in Early Education Programs

Pre-k Vermont applauds the Governor statements today to increase the investment in early childhood programs. Research consistently shows the return on investment of state and federal funding for high quality pre-k programs, accessible for all three- and four-year-olds.

As the Governor stated: “Access to affordable, quality early care and education provides a dual benefit: it lays the building blocks for a successful future, ensuring children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn; and, it removes the single biggest barrier for parents in poverty to move into the workforce…To move our system of education into the 21st Century we must strengthen our commitment to creating a continuum of learning that begins in early childhood and never ends, providing the necessary opportunities to Vermonters throughout their lives. A real investment in lifelong learning is an investment in an individual’s economic independence. Indeed, few things are more important to establishing a strong and growing economy than the education and training of our workforce. That’s why, despite budget challenges, I propose a 20% increase in early and higher education as a first step to address spending disparities and prepare Vermonters, young and old, for future success.”

“We think the Governor is on the right track with his support for early education programs,” said Pre-K Vermont member Lisa Ventriss, President of Vermont Business Roundtable. “Research shows a significant return on investment for this type of state expenditure and we support it wholeheartedly.”

Prek Vermont is an organization dedicated to ensuring high quality early education programs are accessible to all Vermont three and four year olds. Advisory Panel members include:

• Lisa Ventriss, President, Vermont Business Roundtable

• Jeff Francis, Executive Director, Vermont Superintendents Association

• John Nelson, Executive Director, Vermont School Boards Association

• Melissa Riegal-Garrett, Executive Director, Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children

• Lou Ann Beninati, Director, Robin’s Nest

• Ilana Snyder, Co-Director, Mary Johnson Children’s Center

• Nancy Sugarman, Northern Lights Career Development Center

• Dale Goldhaber, Chair of the Early Childhood Development department at University of Vermont

• Janice Stockman, Head Start State Collaboration Office

• Michelle Spence, Director, Franklin County Early Childhood Programs

• Betsy Rathbun-Gunn, Head Start Director, Bennington

The Director is Mary Barrosse Schwartz, and the organization’s work includes advocacy, research, and public relations efforts.

The best outcomes from early education for children require a higher level of quality than is currently required under the rules of Vermont’s pre-k law, Act 62. Vermont’ s pre-k system receives a score of four out of ten on the quality scale from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Much can be done to improve quality:

• Challenges: Overwhelming research concludes that lead teachers in early education classroom should have a Bachelors degree to be the most effect, and to make sure that children have the best educational opportunity possible. But the system of early education has been chronically under funded. How do we require programs to make the shift to highly trained teachers, or for teachers to take the courses needed to complete a BA degree, when the cost of higher education is so high? And, once a teacher has the BA degree, the public school system offers much higher salaries and draws the early education teachers away.

• Possible Public Policy Initiatives: Scholarships to aid teachers reaching the BA degree level? Loan forgiveness for those who obtain the BA degree, and remain in the early education field? Helping retain early education teachers in private centers by paying them through the school districts at the local public school teacher rate?

Act 62 Background:

• The bill was signed into law on June 1, 2007. It received the strong support of 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.