The Alliance’s Legislative Agenda is crafted annually in partnership with early childhood organizations that are advancing policy solutions through the legislative process that are related to health, safety, food security, economic security, and early care and education. Each year, issues are selected by the Alliance’s 21-member Steering Committee. One or more lead organizations will direct legislative and advocacy strategy on each issue.
Please visit our webpage to learn more about the Agenda-Setting Process. Scroll to the bottom section of this page to download previous years’ agendas and results.
2020 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
The following issues are included in this year’s Legislative Agenda.
The 2020 Legislative Agenda is also available as a downloadable PDF (coming soon).
BACKGROUND: Overall, Vermont’s birth outcomes and access to care are above average, although available data show disparities that mirror those seen in perinatal care nationwide. Birth doulas have been shown to be an effective intervention for many of these disparities. Birth doulas are trained professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a pregnant person before, during, and shortly after childbirth to help them achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible. They also act as a conduit to information and referrals relative to prenatal health, safety, and community resources. Currently, birth doulas are most available to families who can afford to pay out-of-pocket. However, research shows stronger beneficial effects for people who are low income, socially disadvantaged, or who experience cultural or language barriers to accessing care.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports Voices for Vermont’s Children’s efforts to increase access to birth doula services for parents who are covered by Medicaid. Extending access specifically to birthing people covered by Medicaid would address multiple risk factors and disparities that are of public health concern, and do so in a cost effective way. This is an evidence-based policy that can support better, safer, less expensive births; improved birth outcomes and infant health; and perinatal well-being.
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Voices for Vermont’s Children
BACKGROUND: CIS maximizes young children’s health, development, and learning by providing individualized support to families and early care and education programs. These essential and federally mandated services are designed to lessen, if not eliminate, the need for future services that are costlier and less efficient. CIS has been shown to be effective in mitigating the effects of childhood trauma for thousands of Vermont families. Since CIS began in 2009, funding has remained flat, while the demand and actual costs to the 12 regional non-profit agencies that provide these services have steadily increased. This leads to a critical lack of capacity to serve children and families who struggle with multiple risk factors including increased child welfare involvement, increased exposure to parental opiate use, poverty, homelessness and increased autism prevalence. By fully funding CIS now, the state of Vermont will save seven to ten times that amount as a return on investment by preventing the high cost consequences of childhood trauma in adults including incarceration, chronic medical conditions, substance abuse, and suicide
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the lead organizations’ efforts to secure an increased investment in CIS, which would ensure continued progress on family safety and stability, healthy child development, and young children’s access to quality early care and education. At a minimum, CIS funding should be increased for federally mandated Early Intervention (EI) services commensurate with the demonstrated increase in need, estimated to be an increase of $1.4 million to address capacity needs for these services across the state.
LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Vermont Parent Child Center Network, Vermont Family Network, and Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development.
BACKGROUND: Vermont’s child protection system depends on maintaining public trust, and that trust is undermined by the lack of an independent oversight body. An Office of Child Advocate (OCA) is needed to provide independent and impartial oversight of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and to promote effective reform that meets the best interests of children and youth. This office would bring a voice to Vermont’s constituents, catch individual transgressions before they cause permanent harm, and give the state an independent view of where to invest its time and resources. The office can also educate policymakers and the public on what children need and best practices.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the creation of an OCA to turn complaints into building blocks for better child welfare and juvenile justice. In order for the OCA to be effective, it will require a minimum of two FTE staff as well as administrative support, and a $350,000 annual budget.
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Voices for Vermont’s Children
BACKGROUND: Parent Child Centers (PCCs) deliver critical and essential services to families with young children through a Master Grant agreement with the Department for Children and Families. However, the Master Grant is not funded at the level of cost of providing these services. The Eight Core Services that the PCCs provide to families and young children help to build the five protective factors that are known to strengthen family resilience and prevent adverse outcomes. The state should provide adequate funding to ensure that families get the services they need and that PCCs can be the resource they were intended to be when they were established by the legislature.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the PCC Network’s request that the state increase their Master Grant funding to a total of $10 million for the statewide network of 15 PCCs. The PCC Network also requests that future appropriations be adjusted to consider inflationary pressures and any services added to the Master Grant agreement.
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Vermont Parent Child Center Network
BACKGROUND: Every student should have access to the same things while at school, whether it’s educational opportunities or food. Right now, not every student has access to school breakfast and lunch. Instead, children are divided into categories based on income that determine how much they have to pay to receive a meal at school. This means that many children don’t get the good nutrition they need to learn well because their families can’t afford to pay for meals or because of the shame and stigma associated with being a “free lunch kid.”
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports Hunger Free Vermont’s efforts to ensure that every student can eat at school every day, regardless of their caregiver’s ability to pay, by requiring all public schools in Vermont to provide universal school meals by 2025. When schools switch to a universal school meals model, more students of all incomes eat school meals, the social climate in the cafeteria and the entire school shifts as differences in family income become less visible, students are more ready to learn, and school administrators report more positive relationships with students’ families. By requiring all public schools to provide school meals as part of a student’s education, and by providing state funding to supplement the federal funding all schools receive, all students and schools will experience these benefits.
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Hunger Free Vermont
BACKGROUND: Vermont Farm to School is a nationally recognized initiative that supports Vermont’s economy, communities, and the healthy development and learning of Vermont’s children. It has been shown to influence eating habits, create healthy lifestyles, support experiential learning opportunities, improve healthy food access, support teachers’ knowledge of nutrition, and address childhood obesity. As Vermont works to provide high quality early childhood services, as many children as possible should receive the benefits of the farm to school program – access to healthy foods, food and nutrition education, and community connections.
PROPOSAL: In 2017, Act 63, the Farm to School bill, was signed into law allowing both registered and licensed child care providers to be eligible for Vermont Farm to School grants. The Alliance supports Vermont FEED and champion organizations in their efforts to increase annual funding to reach the goal of $500,000 for the state’s Farm to School program by securing base funding at $231,000 and an additional $75,000 increase to move closer to the goal total. This level ensures early childhood settings serving children ages birth through grade 3 can access program funding for gardening and farm visits, food procurement planning, professional development, and infrastructure and equipment.
LEAD ORGANIZATIONS: Vermont FEED, Vermont Farm to School Network, Hunger Free Vermont, and the Building Bright Futures Early Childhood Wellness Committee
BACKGROUND: 74,500 people in Vermont are food insecure, including 18,700 children. Lack of healthy food during early childhood is linked to health problems, developmental impairments, social and behavioral problems, and challenges in school. Hunger is related to negative health outcomes resulting in higher health care costs for the state.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the Vermont Foodbank’s request for a $500,000 state allocation to fund Vermonters Feeding Vermonters, a program to purchase locally grown, fresh produce directly from Vermont farmers to distribute to people struggling with hunger. This investment from the state would improve the health of adults and children in Vermont, provide financial security to local farmers, and strengthen the Vermont economy, all with a reduced environmental footprint.
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Vermont Foodbank
BACKGROUND: Nearly every working Vermonter at some point will need to take time away from their job to care for or bond with a new child or to deal with a serious personal or family illness. However, very few Vermonters have access to parental leave or personal medical leave through their employer. Federal and state laws allow certain eligible employees to take unpaid leave for these purposes, but many cannot afford to take leave when they need it. A statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program will support the health, well-being, and economic security of Vermont’s children and families and ensure that future generations thrive.
PROPOSAL: The legislature is revisiting a “compromise” bill that passed both houses at the end of the 2019 legislative session. The Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition opposes this bill and encourages the bill be brought to conference committee to amend it. The Alliance supports the FaMLI Coalition in advocating for passage of a strong bill in 2020.
BACKGROUND: As one of the key social determinants of health, safe, stable, and affordable housing is essential to children’s well-being and success in life. Housing instability, homelessness, and unsafe housing often lead to negative outcomes and contribute to childhood trauma and ACES. Increasing state investments in affordable housing, reducing homelessness, and improving the health and safety of rental housing are key to improving children’s outcomes.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition in securing a substantial new infusion of funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, increased funding for rental assistance and supportive services, and statewide housing code enforcement. Because of the state’s chronic underfunding of housing needs, we must find equitable new revenue sources to fund them, like the proposed $2 motel/hotel occupancy fee.
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition
BACKGROUND: Investing in children is key to turning the curve on a number of issues that impact state budgets now and in the future. Children raised without enough resources experience poor health and wellness outcomes in relationship to their more affluent peers. Current appropriations to the Reach Up program effectively ensure that this safety-net program meant “to improve the well-being of children by providing for their immediate basic needs” provides less than 40% of the income needed to achieve its purpose.
PROPOSAL: The Alliance supports Voices for Vermont’s Children’s proposal to increase the Reach Up cash grant to children and families incrementally until it meets 100% of the basic needs of participants, with automatic inflation indexing going forward. There are a number of ways to approach this end result, which Voices and the Reach Up coalition will explore with the legislature.
LEAD ORGANIZATION: Voices for Vermont’s Children
Early Care and Education
BACKGROUND: The state’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) is a critical resource that helps Vermont families afford child care, but it has been underfunded for decades. The reimbursement rates paid to providers on behalf of families are lower than the costs to provide child care and many more families are in need of financial support. In spite of recent increased budget allocations for CCFAP, supported by the advocacy of the Alliance’s CCFAP work group, there is still a long way to go to make the program work well for children, families, and child care providers.
PROPOSAL: Vermont must continue to make progress in strengthening CCFAP to make child care affordable for families and providers. The Alliance supports its members’ advocacy to make immediate and continued progress toward this goal by allocating additional funds to support necessary IT upgrades and to align the rates paid by the program with the most current data on the cost of child care.
BACKGROUND: Vermont continues to face a serious shortage of qualified early childhood educators at all levels: teachers, associate teachers, and assistant teachers. The state does not have enough qualified early childhood educators currently to fill open positions in the early childhood system, which severely constrains capacity and contributes to Vermont’s severe child care shortage. Additionally, many talented and qualified early childhood educators are not entering the field in part because of low pay and minimal to no benefits. In order to reverse this trend, the Alliance and lead organizations are advocating for three policies to support early childhood educators.
- Expand Vermont’s scholarship programs for early childhood educators. With increased state support, the programs would have the ability to expand to provide support to individuals currently working in early childhood education programs pursuing a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, in addition to those seeking an associate’s degree, teacher licensure or endorsement, or participating in the state’s child care apprenticeship program.
- Create an early childhood educator student loan repayment support program for early educators who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or early special education within the past three years (2017-20). The program would provide up to $3,000 a year for Vermont residents or those graduating from Vermont schools who are working as lead teachers and earning less than $40,000 annually to help them make regular payments on their student loans.
- Create a wage supplement program, tied to level of education, for Vermont’s early childhood educators working in regulated early childhood education programs.