Well over 500 children, parents, grandparents, early childhood educators, employers, and community leaders packed the Vermont State House steps and lawn to rally with dozens of lawmakers from every corner of Vermont and of every political affiliation, uniting together to show support for solving Vermont’s child care crisis. The Courage to Care Rally was among the largest legislative rallies in recent years and a testament to the growing and intensifying support for progress to address the state’s child care crisis.
The rally which took place in Montpelier, comes on the heels of the Vermont Senate’s historic passage of S.56, the 2023 Child Care Bill earlier this month. The bill, if passed, would be the state’s most significant step towards solving the child care crisis by making child care more accessible and affordable for thousands of Vermont families and by improving program quality by increasing compensation and professional training for early childhood educators. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Baruth, joined behind the podium by child care leaders in the Senate – Ruth Hardy and Ginny Lyons – spoke to Vermonters at the rally about his chamber’s work on the 2023 child care bill: “Since day one the Senate has made clear that our top priority is to address Vermont’s child care crisis this year,” said Senator Baruth, president pro tempore of the Senate. “We’ve heard from hundreds of parents, providers and members of the business community about the urgent need to address the child care crisis to support children and families, our workforce and economy. S.56’s passage represents our unwavering commitment to address this urgent need.”
The bill is now being considered by the House, and during the rally, Speaker Jill Krowinski joined by Representatives Theresa Wood and Emilie Kornheiser shared her chamber’s shared collective support for legislation that will help to solve the state’s ongoing child care crisis. “For far too long, families across Vermont have struggled to balance taking care of their children and earning a paycheck,” said Speaker Krowinski. “Finding a child care slot at a local center is extremely difficult and finding available care for infants is nearly impossible. It’s time to ensure every family has access to high-quality and affordable childcare. We have a chance to make our state more prosperous, create greater opportunities for Vermonters, and show the rest of the country what a state that supports families truly looks like.”
In addition to lawmakers and early childhood educators, the hundreds of Vermonters who attended the rally also heard from influential business and industry leaders representing a range of sectors, including: Alyssa Campbell, CEO of Seed and Sew (emceed the event); Brian Leffler, CEO of Instrumart, a leading supplier of industrial instruments in South Burlington; Mieko Ozeki, Cofounder of Vermont Womenpreneurs; and Dr. Rebecca Bell, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Vermont Chapter.
During the rally, leaders in the state’s child care movement spoke about how the child care crisis has never been more dire and how as a state, we cannot allow it to continue. Advocates Caitlin D’Onofrio, toddler teacher at Robin’s Nest Children’s Center in Burlington and Ilia Gilligan, early childhood educator, parent and member of the Child Care Campaign’s Families of Color Advisory Committee called out that parents right now, when lucky enough to find access to child care, are spending up to 30% of their income to get it, and how quality child care can be limited due to low pay and costly professional training resources for early childhood educators. Su White, Teaching Director at the Quarry Hill School in Middlebury and decades-long child care advocate also expressed this in her rally remarks, but also that as a state we’ve never been closer to solving the child care crisis. “As professionals, we deserve compensation, respect and opportunities. When I retire, I would love to know that there is a child care system in place that works for all Vermonters. We can do it! We are here and the moment is now.”
The rally included a musical performance from Vermont’s own Kat Wright Trio. The group performed the song “Something Beautiful” which was co-written by Wright in 2017 for the Vermont Child Care Campaigns’ “Kids Out Loud!” event held in Burlington. The song has become the anthem for the child care movement in Vermont.
Throughout the afternoon, while listening to the Kat Wright Trio and various speeches, attendees took part in advocacy activities that included writing messages to lawmakers, meeting with elected officials, planning and registering for future child care advocacy events, and posting their photos and child care stories to social media to increase awareness and grow the movement further.
In closing out the rally, Aly Richards, CEO of Let’s Grow Kids said: “Each one of us did one thing today – we showed courage for child care. We’ve delivered a powerful message to our elected representatives and to every single Vermonter. For our kids, parents, businesses, educators, for our economy – now is the time to solve our state’s child care crisis.”
About Vermont’s Child Care Campaign
Vermont’s Child Care Campaign is led by Let’s Grow Kids, a nonprofit organization on a mission to ensure affordable access to high-quality child care for all Vermont families by 2025. With nearly 40,000 supporters, Let’s Grow Kids, in partnership with Let’s Grow Kids Action Network, is empowering Vermonters to advocate for sustainable child care policy change. Learn more at www.letsgrowkids.org.
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