Pre-Kindergarten Recommendations Outreach Proposal

At the January State Advisory Council (SAC) meeting, Amy Fowler, Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Education, and Reeva Murphy, Co-Chair of the SAC and Deputy Commissioner of the Child Development Division (CDD), proposed that Building Bright Futures (BBF), in its role as the early childhood advisor to the administration and legislature, use its state and regional council infrastructure to gather feedback on the Act 166 Reform Recommendations released in December 2017 in a joint report from the Agency of Education (AOE) and the Agency of Human Services (AHS).

To prepare for the report, representatives from both agencies have been meeting since the summer of 2017 to discuss ways to improve Universal Pre-K. The recommendations in the report were developed after receiving testimony from many early childhood stakeholders at two public forums this fall. The next steps from the report would be for the legislature to pass new legislation this session; making high level statutory changes to the law to reflect the recommendations.

Amy and Reeva recognized the need for additional feedback as the legislature considers statutory changes based on the recommendations. They proposed that using BBF’s regional councils to gather further feedback would be an excellent way to gain perspective and voice from the greater Vermont early childhood community.

The proposed process is that throughout February 2018, BBF will convene conversations in each of its 12 regions to gather feedback on the Act 166 recommendations and proposed legislative changes. BBF will work to promote these meetings to those most involved in the implementation of Act 166, including local school leadership and school and community-based Pre-K providers. Any other interested early childhood stakeholders or community members would be welcome to participate.

BBF Regional Coordinators will record feedback from these discussions using a common template, which will allow BBF to pull together a summary report. BBF will present this report to the legislature in early March as an overview of what we heard in the regions regarding the proposed changes to Act 166.

The SAC asked what these regional conversations would look like. Carolyn Wesley, Deputy Director of BBF, shared that there is room for co-creation between AOE, BBF, Regional Coordinators and regional council members. This group will work together to create guiding questions for this process to support rich, candid discussion at the regional level.

AOE has volunteered to send staff to these regional meetings to answer questions and provide clarification if desired. They would also respect a region’s desire to provide candid feedback without anyone from the Agency present.

SAC member Aly Richards stressed the importance of making sure these meetings were promoted among diverse partners involved in Universal Pre-K in order to present a balanced perspective.

Meeting dates, times, and locations for each region will be publicized in early February.  

Amy Fowler then walked the SAC through the Administrative Rulemaking process that would unfold after council feedback has been received and any legislation is passed. BBF will also partner with AOE to ensure robust stakeholder engagement throughout that process this summer and fall.

The SAC was enthusiastic about using the BBF infrastructure in this way to inform statewide policy. They stressed that the report BBF makes to the legislature in March should be framed as a summary of feedback from around the state, not as recommendations from the State Advisory Council body.

BBF will create an opportunity for individual SAC members to provide feedback on the recommendations if they are interested. Sarah Squirrell, Executive Director of BBF, encouraged SAC members to send their reflective thinking or additional feedback.

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