Child care providers need
to unionize

Editor of the Reformer:

This week we all celebrated as Sen. Bernie Sanders, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Rep. Peter Welch, and Sen. Patrick Leahy announced that Vermont will receive a Race to the Top grant of $37 million for early education. We know that for every dollar invested in early education, the state can see a $7 return.

We appreciate the hard work of all involved to bring this funding to Vermont. We all agree that quality early education is a key to ensuring that all Vermonters can achieve their full potential so that we can have a thriving middle class for generations to come. We know that in order to achieve our goals, we must ensure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care, and too few families in Vermont qualify for state subsidies. Unfortunately, the Race to the Top funding cannot be used to support working families in this way.

We also know that one of the biggest issues we must address is the wage gap between early educators and other teachers who work in the K-12 schools. In part because of this wage gap, the turnover rate in early education is approximately 40 percent. Governor Shumlin acknowledged that early educators need to be granted the ability to organize so that the issue of fair pay can be addressed.

Vermont Early Educators United is committed to ensuring quality, affordable early education for all Vermont families and also to ensuring that our providers are treated with respect and paid fairly for the important work that they do. The National Women’s Law Center conducted a study in 2010 that shows that union representation of the early education workforce results in improved services, increased reimbursement rates, and more access to early education for low-income families.

The child care and early education we provide allows low-income parents -- many single moms with children -- to go to work or school and improve their financial situations, often working their way off of welfare benefits. As early educators, we are very connected to children and parents, and are experts in the needs of low-income, working families. Providing us a seat at the table when policies are being discussed will benefit both the state and the families we serve.

As Gov. Shumlin noted, we need the ability to organize ourselves in order to have our voices heard and to work together for the best system possible for parents, children, and providers. I hope the Vermont Legislature will support our right to organize this year and pass the bill that will begin a process for providers to choose whether or not they would like to have a union.

Kay Curtis,

Brattleboro, Dec. 31

but not stupid

Editor of the Reformer:

In December, taxpayers in the towns of Windham and Grafton received a letter from Meadowsend Timberlands, which owns a chunk of land with borders in both towns. The letter introduces, in minute detail, their new public-relations manager. It is meant to put us taxpayers in a good mood about Meadowsend’s efforts to put wind turbines on their land, by touting the tax benefits that have accrued to other Vermont towns with turbines.

Most of us in the Windham community tend to be fairly taciturn, so it’s not clear what the effect of the letter has been. What is clear is that it represents a baffling turnaround by the good folks of Meadowsend. Until now, they have categorically refused to discuss their plans for a wind installation in the heart of our town, claiming that they have no plans because they’re waiting for data from the measuring towers that were installed here earlier this year. Now, these same folks present us with data on tax benefits we can anticipate. But hold on: their computations only make sense if they are planning roughly the same number of turbines, with the same output, as that found in the communities they tout, where (we can but surmise) rosy-cheeked residents dance upon gold-paved streets.

We’re taciturn, but we ain’t stupid. We’ve used Geographic Information Systems software and wind data from the Vermont Center for Geographic Information to make some powerful predictions about likely siting of towers in our communities, and we’re pretty clear about what the impacts might be, based on the experience of other towns that lie in the shadow of wind turbines. Our findings suggest that it will take a lot more than the ministrations of a public-relations manager to smooth the path that lies ahead for Meadowsend and the people of Windham and Grafton.

For now, we have urgent questions for the folks at Meadowsend: If they’ve got a plan for their wind installation, why not talk to us about it? Why stonewall our questions about number and siting of towers, about probable effects, about exclusion zones? Do they or don’t they have a picture of a future wind installation in our towns? If the answer if yes, why not share it with us? If the answer if no, what’s the basis of their tax revenue projections for our towns?

As for public relations, we’d like answers, not windy promises.

Nancy Tips,

Windham, Dec. 30

The most dangerous year?

Editor of the Reformer:

Two significant events regarding Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant took place recently, which expose major health and safety implications for 2014. On Dec. 8, a panel of experts spoke in Northampton, Mass., on the risk factors involved in decommissioning Vermont Yankee. On Dec. 23, Vermont announced an agreement with the plant’s owner, Entergy Corporation, in which the state allows the plant to operate through the end of 2014. In exchange, Entergy has agreed to complete the entire decommissioning process, once their decommissioning fund is adequate (estimated 10 to 20 years). Priority, according to Vermont Governor Shumlin, will be given to putting extremely radioactive and dangerously overpacked spent fuel rods into dry cask storage -- an estimated seven-year process.

The Dec. 8 speakers, all having been involved in de-commissioning regional nuclear power plants, made some important points. The final year of operation of Vermont Yankee is the most dangerous year in its 41 years of operation. Why? Vermont Yankee is operating at 120 percent of capacity; risk of accident in the aging plant is very high; and extra care needs to be taken in operating it through 2014. When a company announces it’s closing, worker morale plummets and the best and brightest start looking for another job. Further, where is the incentive for Entergy to fill work orders, to heed workers’ complaints about health and safety, and to spend money on repairs in 2014, when the plant is already losing money?

The policymakers of Vermont and Massachusetts, the panel warned, must be alerted to the gravity of this last operating year and engaged in protecting their citizens from the risks of catastrophic accident. Citizen vigilance and activism in this last year of operation are needed more than ever.

Pat Hynes,

Montague, Mass., Dec. 30 A few more months to celebrate

Editor of the Reformer:

Thank you for notifying us in a recent editorial that January is National Soup Month ("Well hello, 2014!" Jan. 3). It certainly is at our house.

In our region, at least for the first half of the year, it is important to recall the following monthly associations that are less well-known: January is National Move to Florida Month; February is National "We’ve Used All the Firewood, What Do We Do Now?" Month; March is National "How Much More of This Can We Take?" Month; April is National "Will We Ever See the Ground Again?" Month; May is National "What Are Those Green Things in the Trees?" Month; and June is National Mighty Po’ah Sleddin’ Month

It is good to remind ourselves of these wonderful events.

Peter Adair,

Westminster West, Jan. 6