Early childhood education takes center stage in Montpelier - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Early childhood education takes center stage in Montpelier Saturday

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Spin the arrow and hop the boxes. Maybe even climb a few ladders. You may remember the game chutes and ladders from your childhood. Well now, it's life size. Saturday, kids became the board pieces at the statehouse, representing the need for affordable, early learning opportunities in Vermont.

"With early childhood investment the children can climb the ladders and then we have big starbursts of things that will happen when they climb the ladders. And with lack of investment they'll fall down the chute and they slide into the abyss," said event organizer, Courtney Stout.

Stout has a two and a half year old son. She says she would like to send him to a high-quality pre-school but that finding an affordable option has been tough.

"It was a huge stress so I couldn't find anyone to begin with and the cost of it is astronomical!" said Stout.

"Some of these bills are hard to pass even if it's a common sense idea. The earlier you can give a child a good start in life the better her or his chances to succeed in school and later in life holding a job," said former Vermont governor, Madeleine Kunin.

Kunin has pushed for deeper investment into early childhood for years. Kunin says she hopes the Universal Pre-K bill that's currently being considered at the statehouse passes. It's already been cleared in the house and would allow all 3 and 4-years-olds to enroll in 10 hours a week of publicly-funded high-quality early education.

"You have to humanize the issue. It's not just a question of dollar signs, or numbers, or statistics although they're powerful. People have to see faces and hear stories and they have to know these are our neighbors that we're talking about," said Kunin.

"Without significant investments in those supports and programs, our children are really a step behind and that's not Ok in our nationally economy or especially our global economy," said State Representative Sarah Buxton, D-Windsor/Orange.

Opponents say state programming for early childhood education is too expensive. But supporters say when it comes to educating Vermont's kids it should not come down to cost.

"84% of Vermont communities already provide some form of publicly funded Pre-K. What we're trying to do is help children in the other 16 percent of the communities to have those high quality opportunities," said Buxton.

The Pre-K bill is slated to be up for debate in the Senate early next session.

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