Vermont is looking for ways to grow economically without betraying its sustainability commitments. In order to succeed in competition for a skilled workforce with other states, we must provide unique living opportunities tailored to the needs of young families.
At the same time, we are learning that daycare services, vital to a youthful workforce, are drying up in Vermont. The poor pay for providers and lack of possibilities for professional development make fast-food service jobs look almost like an attractive alternative.
What better incentive could Vermont offer, in order to retain and attract desirable businesses and young careerists, than to provide a new tier of public education to serve that essential need?
With a declining primary school population, many communities have more brick-and-mortar capacity than they can currently fill, and statewide efforts are focussed on consolidation.
Why not redirect those assets to a program of certified public daycare/early childhood ed, and roll it into the administrations of local school boards that are already in the process of adapting to consolidations?
If we begin now to provide tuition-forgiveness incentives for qualified students to enroll in early childhood education programs at colleges and universities in the state; and provide a professional track for daycare providers to become certified early education providers under state rules, we could begin to rebuild that essential work-support infrastructure.
Under this plan, as qualified teachers, early childhood care/education providers should be allowed to negotiate their contracts with school boards just as their primary and secondary school colleagues do.
All indications are that investments made in early childhood care and education more than return their value in reduced costs to society from the many undesirable outcomes that are avoided over the years: drug addiction, domestic violence, persistent poverty, crime and incarceration, .
Even costs associated with mental illness and poor health habits can be greatly reduced by early childhood education interventions.
At the same time, being a pioneer state in providing cradle-to-college public education would set Vermont above others as a singularly desirable location for any up-and-coming business requiring a skilled workforce to locate it’s operations for the longterm.