What is your vision for Vermont's early care and education system, and how would you propose funding this system?
As a mother of two young children, I am living through the economic challenges well known to working parents. Finding affordable, high quality child care is difficult in every corner of the state. The closure of several centers due to COVID, which exacerbated existing operational challenges, creates even more pressure on the system. My vision for child care access is that any family in need of child care can find high quality, affordable care for their children and we end the desperation cycle families face to secure spots. I want a child care system that pays staff professional, livable wages with benefits that allow these essential workers to live and retire in dignity. To do so, we must increase state support for child care subsidies and expand innovative programs like the City of Burlington’s Early Learning Initiative which creates scholarships and grants to create more affordable child care spots for residents. To fund such efforts, we should leverage more financial support from employers either through a dedicated tax and/or programs that create more employer-child care partnership programs on the local level. We should also explore expanding education tax dollars to fund these essential early education programs without depleting resources from the K-12 system. Finally, enacting a universal paid family leave program would help to reduce the demand for infant care - one of the most costly years of child care given important ratios of staff to children - because parents could afford to provide direct care for their children if they choose to do so. This is an area to collectively invest in the health and long-term well being of the next generation and not leave it to individuals to find thousands of impossible, temporary solutions to this problem.