On Tuesday, June 20, 2023, during a veto override session, Vermont’s legislature passed H.217, a historic act related to investing in the state’s early childhood system. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2023, with portions of the law being phased in over time through 2026. In this legislative recap, we look at the roles that the BBF Network played in this legislative session, including advisement and testimony, and the roles BBF will play now that the bill has become law.
Read the official text of the act as passed by the House and Senate in the veto override session
BBF’s Approach to Advisement in 2023
During the course of the 2023 legislative session, Building Bright Futures (BBF) advised Vermont lawmakers, legislative staff, and the administration over 75 times and provided formal (written or verbal) testimony to one or more committees 13 times. The entities advised through this process included the Governor’s Office; legislative leadership from the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, the Senate Committee on Education, the House Committee on Human Services, and the House Committee on General and Housing; the Joint Fiscal Office; the Agency of Education; and the Agency of Human Services.
When called to testify, the Building Bright Futures team reviewed available and relevant resources, data, and stakeholder feedback and consulted with the Executive Committee of Vermont’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council and other key partners in order to deliver the most effective, evidence-based information to lawmakers. Through this process, the BBF team prioritized elevating the voice of families and communities and ensuring that every level of the BBF Network—from Regional Councils to the State Advisory Council to the VECAP Committees—was represented.
Since Building Bright Futures and Vermont’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council do not specifically endorse or oppose any legislation, this advisement called attention to legislative proposals’ alignment (or in some cases, misalignment) with:
- Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan (VECAP)
- Available data on the early childhood system from Vermont’s Early Childhood Data and Policy Center
- Of particular note: In 2023, the Building Bright Futures State Advisory Council Network captured and summarized feedback from nearly 200 early childhood partners statewide that informed legislation related to child care and early childhood education.
- Recent State Advisory Council-endorsed Policy Recommendations
FY23 Formal Written or Verbal Testimony
- January 19, 2023: An overview of BBF’s role to House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development
- February 1, 2023: Testimony to House Committee on General and Housing on housing’s impact on early childhood and family well-being
- February 15, 2023: Testimony to Senate Committee on Health and Welfare on legislation related to child care and early childhood education (S.56)
- February 17, 2023: Follow-up to S.56 testimony to Senate Committee on Health and Welfare
- February 24, 2023: Follow-up to S.56 testimony to Senate Committee on Health and Welfare
- March 1, 2023: Testimony to Senate Committee on Education on considerations and existing data related to Universal Pre-K
- March 15, 2023: Testimony to Senate Committee on Education on considerations for S.56’s Universal Pre-K study
- March 16, 2023: Testimony to Senate Committee on Health and Welfare on BBF’s role within S.56 testimony
- March 21, 2023: Overview of Vermont’s Preschool Development Grant’s goals and projects to House Committee on Human Services
- April 6, 2023: Testimony to House Committee on Human Services on legislation related to child care and early childhood education (H.208)
- April 11, 2023: Testimony to House Committee on Education on legislation related to child care and early childhood education (H.208) related to the Universal Pre-K program
- April 14, 2023: Testimony to House Committee on Ways and Means on legislation related to child care and early childhood education (H.208)
- April 17, 2023: Written testimony to House Committee on Human Services on accountability within H.208/S.56 An act relating to child care and early childhood education
BBF’s Advisement on H.217
This year, the majority of Building Bright Futures’ requests to testify came from lawmakers hearing testimony on S.56/H.217, given the scope of the legislation and the energy of lawmakers and other stakeholders to move the historic proposal related to child care and pre-K forward. Early childhood stakeholders in Vermont have largely built consensus around Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan (VECAP) and recent State Advisory Council Policy Recommendations, and there is clear alignment between those resources and many components of H.217, including the legislation’s focus on:
- Making investments and policy changes related to early childhood workforce support
- Ensuring quality, access, affordability, and equity in the state’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program
- Pursuing a potential expansion of Vermont’s Universal Pre-K program
- Strengthening Vermont’s monitoring, accountability, and governance of early childhood programs
- Fostering family leadership, engagement, and partnership
These are just some of the areas of alignment between H.217 and the resources, data, and stakeholder feedback gathered through the BBF Network. The data shows that Vermont’s early childhood stakeholders do have remaining concerns about some components of the bill. However, the data also illustrates the overall potential for this legislation to be well-aligned with Vermont’s values and to make a significant impact on the well-being of Vermont’s young children, families, early childhood educators, and communities.
For more information on the alignment between H.217 and Vermont’s Early Childhood Action Plan and recent State Advisory Council recommendations, please see this resource outlining specific areas of alignment:
These themes and areas of significant need and opportunity were echoed by the stakeholder feedback BBF gathered from almost 200 partners. As Representative Jessica Brumstead, a State Advisory Council Member, shared prior to the May vote on H.217, the feedback gathered from these partners and stakeholders through the BBF Network was instrumental in determining the direction of the legislation:
“The Building Bright Futures Network summarized feedback from over 190 early childhood partners statewide that informed our child care work.”
What’s Next? BBF’s Role as Outlined in H.217
Building Bright Futures was written into this legislation in meaningful ways that will allow BBF to support the state by promoting stakeholder engagement and providing technical assistance, accountability, and monitoring related to the implementation of the bill. Additionally, BBF has been tasked with appointing two family representatives to the Universal Pre-K Implementation Committee, an opportunity to continue to elevate family voice and partnered decision-making.
BBF’s role in supporting accountability as outlined in H.217 is also a unique opportunity to ensure that we monitor the impacts of implementing this legislation and that the process of implementation is as effective as possible. In the coming months and years, BBF will have a number of roles and responsibilities related to supporting accountability in Vermont’s early childhood system, including:
- Monitoring accountability throughout the implementation process of the new law
- Supporting stakeholders in collectively defining and measuring success related to implementation
- Supporting the state in maximizing stakeholder engagement opportunities and elevating family and community voice
- Providing technical assistance to build capacity for the Vermont Department for Children and Families’ Child Development Division and the Vermont Agency of Education.
- Specifically, Building Bright Futures shall:
- Ensure accountability through monitoring transitions over time and submitting a report with the results of this work annually by January 15
- Define and measure success of expanded child care, prekindergarten, and afterschool and summer care related to process, implementation, and outcomes using a continuous quality improvement framework and engage public, private, legislative, and family partners to develop benchmarks
BBF looks forward to our new roles under the new law and to keeping Vermont’s early childhood stakeholders informed of progress and developments. BBF will continue reaching out to a broad swath of early childhood partners across our state for their input and involvement in this important endeavor.