Access to early education programs is a challenge for many Vermonters. Tuesday stakeholders discussed a plan to create more opportunities for young children.
"I would argue, that this is the most important work that we can be doing together," said Governor Peter Shumlin (D-Vermont).
More than 200 educators joined the conversation about Vermont's Early Childhood Framework -- an outline explaining how to create access to education for children before kindergarten -- and through 8th grade.
The framework will be accompanied by an action plan -- a road map for Vermont's early ed future. "Our action plan is to increase this year, as you heard the governor say, the early childhood work that started last year in the legislature and then slowly make some, have some goals," said Vt. Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca.
The program will monitor kids at a young age, ensuring that by third grade they are learning at their grade level. "We want to make sure that now -- we fast forward to 10, 15 years down the road -- we have increased our graduation rates and made sure that as many children as possible, hopefully 100 percent, will continue their education beyond high school," Vilaseca said.
Other needs to be addressed by the new framework will include access to early education for kids in rural parts of the state and opportunities for children with special needs.
"Both as a parent and as an advocate, I felt it was important to really shine a bright light on the needs of children with autism and other disabilities -- we need to focus on that more," said Jessica Poirier, a parent attending the summit.
There is also concern of how early ed programs will be funded. "People feel that they're doing good work but they do the work related to where they get their money and the way we can transform the system is to be more creative about how we fund our system," said Breena Holmes, Director of the Vt. Health Department's Maternal and Child Health program.
Governor Shumlin says he hopes to eventually see money from the corrections system begin to flow into early education. More short term plans include the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, a grant funded by the federal government and awarded to states who have the most need. "Regardless of whether we get the federal money or not, we do have a plan to start implementing some concepts. It would just take a little bit longer and be drawn out a little bit more," Vilaseca said.
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