The Building Bright Futures State Advisory Council met on Monday, September 24, 2018 in Williston. The objectives of the meeting were:
- To receive an update on the work of Building Vermont’s Future Think Tank and to deepen engagement with this work;
- Provide feedback on the work of the How Are Vermont’s Young Children and Families Report; and
- To review the Priority Areas and Strategies that resulted from the ECAP Summit and affirm that work.
Building Vermont’s Future Think Tank
The council heard an update on the work of the Building Vermont’s Future Think Tank, including draft recommendations, and the Think Tank’s process to proceed to final recommendations (expected to take place in October). The draft recommendations include:
- High-quality program standards: a closely integrated model with “outcomes for children and families” at the center. Program standards, monitoring, and support would be aligned, connected and coordinated to ensure that all programs reach these outcomes. These would apply to all early education programs for birth through five years.
- Qualifications and compensation for professionals: The group envisions a future in which every individual in the ECL workforce is well qualified, trained and credentialed, accountable for high quality practice, and appropriately compensated. We believe that qualifications and compensation are intertwined and must be addressed concurrently.
- Early care and learning hubs: based on the idea of centralizing and coordinating resources that support early care and learning programs. Early Care and Learning Hubs could also serve to centralize direct services for children and families as well as support a statewide eligibility system. Hubs are designed to coordinate existing resources and services in an efficient and cost effective, and family-centric way.
- A dedicated early childhood fund: The group heard the concerns from the whole Think Tank that the success of this recommendation very much depends on the specifics of what funding streams are in and out, and the concerns about how federal requirements would impact this, and not separating funding streams that are already braided (in the PreK – 12 system or health system for example).
- New sources of revenue: an updated list of potential revenue streams would include:
- Philanthropic endowment
- Upfront private “Pay for Success” investment to cover system transition costs with a plan to allocate public money in 5 years pending certain outcomes
- Business specific contributions
- Restructured income tax
- Health care dollars
- Priority for any new revenue streams including tax on the distribution and sale of marijuana and recapturing federal tax breaks in state taxes for a net zero tax increase on Vermonters
- Redesigned family subsidy: A critical element of our new system would be redesigning our child care financial assistance program. Key changes would include linking the subsidy to the Vermont Basic Needs Budget or state median income, rather than to the Federal Poverty Level. The program would be modeled to take into account the number of children in each family, and to avoid benefit cliffs as family income increases. Think Tank member Deb Brighton has worked on a model proposal for this redesign which the Financing Mechanisms group will consider ahead of the next report draft.
How Are Vermont’s Young Children and Families Report
The State Advisory Council also heard an update on the How Are Vermont’s Young Children and Families Report. The goals of the report include to meet Building Bright Futures’ charge under Act 104 to monitor the wellbeing of young children and families, to provide objective and actionable recommendations to the Administration and Legislature, and to inspire Vermonters to become engaged and involved with the world of early childhood.
The work on the report to date has been centered around intentional research questions about the well-being of children and families and answering those questions with reliable data sources. The Advisory Committee for the report has been instrumental in affirming those questions and data sources. Working with the Advisory Committee ensures that we have the most robust sources for data.
The topics covered in the 2018 report include:
- Demographics (a new section this year)
- Family & Community (a combination of two chapters from last year- Safety and Family & Social Relationships)
- Health & Development
- Early Care & Learning
- Family Economic Wellbeing
- Regional Profiles
New data points that we will be reporting on this year include:
The final section of the report is Recommendations. This section will align with both the SAC Priorities and the Building Vermont’s Future Think Tank Recommendations.
ECAP Priority Areas and Strategies
The SAC engaged in a Gallery Walk of Early Childhood Action Plan (ECAP) Priorities that arose from the ECAP Summit in July through the BBF Action Plan Committees. The priorities are based on specific outcomes for children and include possible strategies and action steps. They are also tied to specific state policy issues or needs. As a reminder, the 6 ECAP Results are:
- Result 1: All children have a healthy start
- Result 2: Families and communities play a central role in children’s wellbeing
- Result 3: All children and families have access to high quality opportunities that meet their needs
- Result 4: Vermont invests in prevention and plans for the future success of children
- Result 5: Data and accountability drive progress in early childhood outcomes
- Result 6: The early childhood system is innovative and integrated across sectors in order to better serve children and families
A document reflecting the priorities, strategies, and action steps of each Action Plan committee can be found here. After the Gallery Walk and read out from that activity, the SAC voted to affirm the ECAP Priorities.