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Report: Vermont's early childhood education system is 'fundamentally broken'

A kindergarten classroom includes a table, and shelves of toys.
The Legislature-commissioned report calls for the creation of a new office in Vermont state government to oversee early childhood education.

An independent review of Vermont’s child care infrastructure has found that the system is “fundamentally broken.”

The Vermont Legislature commissioned the 51-page report from education policy firms in Washington, D.C. as part of a larger effort to overhaul Vermont’s child care system.

Education policy experts hired by the state say Vermont needs to create a new, standalone department in state government to oversee child care and pre-K statewide.

More from Vermont Public: Despite expanded capacity, Vermont child care centers are short thousands of spots

“State government cannot in its current configuration reach the state’s goals for the success of Vermont’s children and families,” said the report, conducted by Foresight Law + Policy and Watershed Advisors.

Aly Richards, executive director of Let’s Grow Kids and a member of the advisory council that oversaw the review, said the findings don’t come as a surprise.

“They’re what we’ve known for years as a community,” she said. “Our child care system isn’t working for anyone. Not for families, children, early educators — certainly not for our workforce and our economy. That’s because the current system is severely under-resourced and under-invested in.”

“State government cannot in its current configuration reach the state’s goals for the success of Vermont’s children and families."
Foresight Law + Policy and Watershed Advisors.

Richards said Let’s Grow Kids and other early childhood education advocates will call on lawmakers to adopt the recommendations in the report during the next legislative session.

“This report outlines some true sort of governance infrastructure pieces that would really be helpful to have in place to support the rest of the system being what kids and families and our economy in Vermont really need," she said.

The report calls for “a new unit of state government” that would be focused “entirely on early childhood, with a single empowered leader with oversight of a core cluster of key early childhood programs.”

The report says the leader of that new unit should report directly to both the secretary of the Agency of Education and the secretary of the Agency of Human Services.

“Really creating an empowered state entity that's overseeing the funding and programming that serves our youngest children will really go a long way in ensuring that they get the strongest start possible," Richards said.

Lawmakers have commissioned a second report to determine how much state funding must increase to make child care more affordable in Vermont.

That report is due in December.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Peter Hirschfeld:


The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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