Kesha Ram Hinsdale
What is your vision for Vermont's early care and education system, and how would you propose funding this system?
Early childhood education is the single greatest investment that society can make for affordability, quality of life, and long-term well-being. For every dollar we spend on early learning initiatives, we receive roughly $8.60 in societal benefits such as increased educational attainment, better health, and less involvement with the criminal justice system. When I was first running for the legislature in 2008, I was also a Head Start Advocate at a local preschool in Burlington, where a child’s ability to stay in our classroom was the greatest source of their family’s stability. Vermont’s current childcare subsidy means that, though disposable income for spending on child care has increased, access to quality and affordable child care remains deeply unequal for families across the state. I support initiatives to increase the number of childcare centers and providers. Further, under current legislation, if a parent takes on an additional job to support their family, they may lose eligibility for the program. No-one should have to make this tradeoff. We must increase public-private partnerships that expand early childhood education, particularly in the effort to have the opportunity for every child to attend pre-kindergarten. Scholarships for our neediest students that do not drop families as they climb out of poverty, high-impact curriculums, and disciplinary systems that reduce the use of suspension and expulsion are all initiatives to address the injustices that young people of color and people with disabilities face. Investing in the next generation of early learners is the right thing to do for our economy and our future.