Task Force Dialogue with Legislators

By Susan Titterton

Now that we hear support from the workforce for aligning with the Unifying Framework for the Early Childhood Education Profession, we must engage others in the early childhood education ecosystem.

So, we invited Senator Ginny Lyons (Chittenden) and Representative Theresa Wood (Washington-Chittenden) to join the Task Force’s December meeting, just before Vermont’s legislature convened. 

We started by asking Rep. Wood and Sen. Lyons this question: “In your work as a legislator, why have you made early childhood education a priority?” 

  • Representative Wood: “It has become evident to me how essential high-quality child care is to businesses, family, the economy, and the well-being of children. We all need to keep at it and realize this work needs to be done for all Vermonters.”
  • Senator Lyons: “My bent is prevention; that’s the path that brought me to championing early childhood education. Early care is critical to preventing and alleviating the current societal issues that we face. We need to have a system in place for all children.” (Read Sen. Lyons’ and Rep. Ann Pugh’s commentary “The child care solution is right in front of us”)

Next, Outreach Coordinator Rachel Hunter and I provided a brief overview of our work to advance early childhood education as a profession. 

This project is led by members of Vermont’s early childhood education workforce. The Task Force members introduced themselves to Sen. Lyons and Rep. Wood and shared their thoughts about the importance of this work. Here are some samples:

  • “Most exciting is engaging with the workforce and hearing their thoughts. We value and respect what they say.”
  • “From the family child care perspective, the Task Force values including all.”
  • “We understand that early childhood includes K-3. The challenge is getting everyone on board with this.”
  • “Especially as the pandemic continues, early childhood educators need to feel respected, valued and heard.”
  • “We have created an opportunity for early childhood educators to have a voice in systems and policy.”
  • “We want to recruit and retain passionate, knowledgeable ECEs, so we must offer comparable wages and benefits, no matter what the setting.”

We asked our guests: how do we broaden the conversation about this work to advance early childhood education as a profession? 

  • Senator Lyons: “As different policy committees look at child care, we need you folks in the room to recommend the best way to do the things you are talking about, i.e. increase wages, create infrastructure. The unifying word here is “respect” for early childhood education, and it’s been a long time coming.”
  • Representative Wood: “Getting the message out to legislators is important, including reaching out to your own legislator. Not everyone understands the evolution of what you are doing. I am particularly interested in the inclusivity of your work – including early childhood educators from family child care and public schools.” 

Then, together we considered some next steps for the Task Force: A subset of the Task Force will prepare presentations for full legislative committees about our work to advance early childhood education as a recognized profession in Vermont.

Susan Titterton is Project Coordinator for Advancing as a Profession.