Vermont leads the nation in 3- and 4-year-old enrollment in pre-K, but education advocates say that's not enough.
Gov. Peter Shumlin says increased spending is the smart choice, easy choice, as every dollar invested saves seven as students rise through the education system.
"Forget the dollars, what really matters is it gives our kids an opportunity to have a successful life," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
Right now, a year of pre-K can cost parents $8,000-$10,000. But those who qualify for state subsidies and provider scholarships can save with as much as $6,000.
Surrounded by tots, Shumlin announced that 12 Vermont communities will receive a cumulative $800,000 worth of student aid funds. They are: Essex Town, Barre City, Barre Town, Bennington, Danville, Hartford, Hinesburg, Lyndonville, Milton, Pownal, Pittsford and Woodford. Vermont's ed fund will supply half of those dollars; the rest will be matched by the nonprofit Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative.
Eighty-four percent of towns participate in a publicly-funded pre-K program; the state covers the cost of up to 10 hours a week per student. The grants will add Woodford and Pownal to that percentage, while the rest of the communities will be able to add openings.
Parent of three and Essex resident Melissa Dubuque's youngest is almost ready for kindergarten, but says she still supports the state's efforts to make pre-K cheaper for others.
"We've been fortunate with some of the programs that we've used, but our first choices were definitely not affordable," Dubuque said.
"This is a great step forward for the state of Vermont," said Rep. Sarah Buxton, D-Randolph.
Buxton praised the additional support for pre-K students. Her proposal to provide universal, publicly-subsidized access passed the House, but could not gain enough support to pass the Senate before the Legislature closed this year.
She'll float the idea again next year, hoping for big returns when students graduate 13 years later.
Governor Shumlin's spokespeople say he supports Buxton's universal pre-K proposal, and looks forward to discussions about details, costs and funding sources.
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:27 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:27:22 GMT
Town meeting day didn't bode well for dozens of school budgets across the state. Now the Burlington City Council is looking to cut costs after voters rejected school spending hikes. The council votedMore >>
Town meeting day didn't bode well for dozens of school budgets across the state. Now the Burlington City Council is looking to cut costs after voters rejected school spending hikes.More >>
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:26 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:26:45 GMT
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill passed Tuesday allows an unlimited number of qualified Vermonters to access medical marijuana -- removing theMore >>
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries.More >>
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:26 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:26:03 GMT
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman. 43-year-old Craig Dubuque was arrested for the alleged financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Police sayMore >>
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 11:35 PM EDT2014-03-12 03:35:07 GMT
"You know, people say you might not need it, which is true, but this way you get a choice. I don't have to go out tomorrow," said Lorinda Henry of Milton. Henry says she hit the grocery stores TuesdayMore >>
Parts of Vermont could get up to 24 inches of snow in the coming storm. And VTrans officials are warning drivers they may not be able to keep up with the storm rolling in Wednesday.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 8:02 PM EDT2014-03-12 00:02:07 GMT
"Seems like it was just yesterday. Doesn't seem like it's been two years at all," said Glenda Reandeau of Tupper Lake. Residents of Tupper Lake still have their eyes out for Colin Gillis, a now 20-year-oldMore >>
Colin Gillis of Tupper Lake, N.Y., disappeared two years ago. And authorities are still searching for him. They say the investigation now focuses on tips from the public and from those who were the last to see Gillis.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 6:17 PM EDT2014-03-11 22:17:43 GMT
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser. Authorities say Officer Adam Lucia was one of two officers responding to an aggravated assault call Monday at TopsMore >>
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser.More >>