Letter: Stop wasting time

Editor of the Reformer:

After reading Chloe Learey's call to action in the Feb. 7 commentary, "What can business do to support child care?" I was both delighted and concerned. She is right about all of it: inextricably linking early learning child care with attracting young families and workers to Vermont and keeping them here, suggesting a coalition approach to find local answers to the child care shortage, and floating the idea that we could increase by 50 the capacity of early learning child care slots in our community. Our children need us to act now on their behalf and they need us to get it right.

So, why am I concerned? Because the more we know about early learning and brain development, the more we know that increasing the number of child care slots by itself isn't enough to solve our problems. We have to increase the number of high quality early learning child care slots, and that means improving the ones we already have at the same time we slowly grow new ones.

The good news is we know how to do that: with educators who have specialized training and certification in child development and early learning, teachers who can build nurturing relationships and supportive classroom environments, family engagement, targeted teaching of social and early language and literacy skills (yes, even babies), and intensive interventions for children who need them. When we cut corners or underemphasize those things, we actually put our young children at risk. Yes, we need more early learning child care, but we can't repeat past mistakes by growing capacity without strategies for sustaining growth and maintaining quality.

Perhaps the best thing a coalition could do now is develop strategies for sustainability of the early learning child care industry by attracting and retaining a qualified workforce, providing professional wages, benefits and continuing education, and utilizing early care and learning practices that are sound and grounded in evidence.

In this entrepreneurial spirit, let's build a coalition like Learey describes that is able to see the importance of expanding child care while getting it right. Our kids don't have time for us to waste.

Janice Stockman,

WSESU Early Childhood Coordinator, Feb. 12


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