Introduced by Senator Collins of Franklin District, Senator Doyle of Washington District, Senator Mullin of Rutland District and Senator Starr of Essex-Orleans District
Subject: Human services; health; education; early child care; building bright futures: the Vermont alliance for children
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to create building bright futures: the Vermont alliance for children, a public-private partnership of state government decision-makers, parents, and private sector leaders. The alliance shall promote statewide planning and policy development and shall coordinate and raise funds for a comprehensive, unified, and voluntary system of early childhood care, health, and education services which are universally available to all families expecting a child and to children below the age of six years.
AN ACT RELATING TO THE CREATION OF BUILDING BRIGHT FUTURES: THE VERMONT ALLIANCE FOR CHILDREN
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. FINDINGS
The General Assembly finds that:
(1) children benefit from high quality early childhood care, health, and education services and that these services lead to improved outcomes for young children and their families;
(2) these services are important to the economic well-being of families throughout the state and have a positive impact on the state’s labor supply and overall economic competitiveness;
(3) addressing early childhood issues has been a priority for the state of Vermont for many years;
(4) as a result, Vermont has a wide range of quality programs for families and young children;
(5) Vermont has no discernible governance structure to assure a comprehensive and unified system of early childhood care, health, and education services, and, as a result, overlapping and fragmentation of services occur;
(6) resources must be invested in the infrastructure of the early childhood care, health, and education system;
(7) there is inconsistent accountability for outcomes in programs within the current system;
(8) public funding needs to be invested to support primary prevention services for all children and families;
(9) most funding is targeted at high risk populations; and
(10) there is a need to explore innovative approaches and strategies to fund a comprehensive and unified system for all children below the age of six years and their families in Vermont who are in need of and desiring such services.
Sec. 2. POLICY AND PURPOSE
(a) Vermont has been working toward the establishment of a comprehensive and unified early childhood system for over a decade. This act advances previous efforts by further integrating the components of an early childhood care, health, and education system, by creating a comprehensive vision for the system, and by considering both the function and sustainability of a unified system over time. An improved infrastructure will enable direct services to function effectively and efficiently and will lead to improved state outcomes for children including an environment in which:
(1) pregnant women and young children thrive;
(2) children are ready for school;
(3) children succeed in school;
(4) children live in stable and supported families; and
(5) communities provide safety and support for families and individuals.
(b) The mission of the Vermont alliance for children is to ensure that all of Vermont’s families expecting a child and young children below the age of six years will have access to a continuum of comprehensive, high-quality, and voluntary early childhood programs that meet established standards, promote school readiness, and address the needs of the child and family. The mission includes services which are provided by early childhood professionals that meet defined professional development standards and are available to children and their families year‑round in a manner that minimizes transitions, maximizes continuity, and reinforces the role of the family as the child’s first and primary teacher.
(c) The Vermont alliance for children shall also be responsible for maximizing existing early childhood care, health, and education resources in order to assure equitable access to quality services, to align resources with desired outcomes in a consistent and measurable manner, to validate outcomes through a formal evaluation system, and to secure new resources from all sources, including the private sector.
(d) The Vermont alliance for children shall promote collective accountability and responsibility for the early childhood care, health, and education system by convening partners to align their resources and investments in order to achieve and sustain gains in child and family well‑being as measured by the outcomes. By maximizing and consolidating existing and new resources, the Vermont alliance for children shall build a seamless system of services for children and their families.
(e) By this act, the general assembly intends to create building bright futures: the Vermont alliance for children to further the policies established by this section.
Sec. 3. 33 V.S.A. chapter 51 is added to read:
Chapter 51. BUILDING BRIGHT FUTURES: THE Vermont Alliance for Children
§ 5001. DEFINITIONS
Unless otherwise specifically provided, the following words and phrases shall have the following definitions:
(1) “Early childhood care and health and education” means all services provided to families expecting a child and to children up to the age of six years, including child care, family support, early education, mental and physical health services, nutrition services, and disability services.
(2) “Infrastructure” means the capacity and support necessary to make the services and service system function effectively and efficiently, including addressing the components of governance, service coordination, financing, accountability, professional development and training, public engagement, standards, system planning and development, evaluation, and leadership.
(3) “Regional affiliate” means a regional entity of the state alliance which coordinates community-based support and services for young children and their families.
(4) “Vermont alliance for children” means a public-private partnership of state government decision-makers, parents, and private sector leaders who shall coordinate and oversee Vermont’s early childhood care, health, and education system and whose working name is “the Vermont alliance for children.”
§ 5002. THE VERMONT ALLIANCE FOR CHILDREN; CREATION
(a) There is created the Vermont alliance for children which shall be governed by a board of directors. The board shall carry out the provisions of this chapter, including statewide planning and policy development and the coordination and raising of funds for a comprehensive and unified system of support for all young children and their families.
(b) The Vermont alliance for children shall be incorporated as a public instrumentality exercising public and essential governmental functions, and the exercise by the board of the powers conferred by this chapter shall be deemed and held to be the performance of an essential governmental function of the state. It shall be staffed by an executive director from the private sector and a designated state employee who will serve as a liaison with state government to ensure and coordinate all legislative and administrative mandates.
(c) The board shall consist of the following 27 appointed members:
(1) the secretary of human services;
(2) the secretary of commerce and community development;
(3) the chair of the state board of education;
(4) the commissioner of education;
(5) the commissioner for children and family services;
(6) the commissioner of health;
(7) the commissioner of employment and training;
(8) a representative from the state school superintendents association;
(9) two representatives from regional partnerships;
(10) two representatives from regional early childhood affiliates;
(11) four representatives from the business community;
(12) three parent representatives, one of which shall be the parent co‑chair of the Vermont interagency coordinating council;
(13) a representative from an advocacy organization representing the interests of children;
(14) a representative of the interests of higher education;
(15) a public school educator with responsibilities in early childhood education;
(16) a member of the Vermont house of representatives, appointed by the speaker of the house;
(17) a member of the Vermont senate, appointed by the senate committee on committees;
(18) a pediatrician who is licensed by the Vermont board of medical practice; and
(19) two members at large who represent the interests of health care, early childhood care, and education providers, or who represent philanthropic or faith communities.
(d) All members other than members of the general assembly and ex officio members shall be appointed by, and shall serve at the pleasure of, the governor. Members of the general assembly shall be appointed at the beginning of each legislative biennium and shall serve until the expiration of their terms. All other members shall be appointed for a three-year term.
(e) Annually, the board shall elect from its members a chair, vice chair, and any other officers it may determine necessary. Meetings shall be held quarterly or at the call of the chair or at the request of three members. Action taken by the board under the provisions of this chapter may be authorized by a majority of the members present and voting at any regular or special meeting.
(f) The board shall employ an executive director to administer, manage, and direct the affairs and business of the board, subject to the policies, control, and direction of the members. The board may employ technical experts and such other officers, agents, and employees as are necessary to implement the purposes of this chapter and may fix their qualifications, duties, and compensation. The board shall use the office of the attorney general for legal services and may enter into contracts for administrative, clerical, financial, lobbying, policy analysis, or research services.
(g) The board may form ad hoc or standing committees to assist with ongoing functions or to study special issues or make recommendations on matters that come before the full board for action. These committees may include members who are not part of the board, but they shall be chaired by a board member.
(h) For meetings of the board held while the general assembly is not in session, legislative members of the board shall be entitled to compensation and reimbursement for expenses under section 406 of Title 2. Members of the board who are not state employees or whose participation is not supported through the member’s employment or association may be entitled to compensation and reimbursement for expenses under section 1010 of Title 32 for attending meetings of the board to the extent funds are available.
§ 5003. POWERS AND DUTIES
The board shall have all the powers and duties necessary to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this chapter, which may include:
(1) advising the administration and general assembly on the status and needs of the early childhood care, health, and education system;
(2) developing and agreeing upon common language for the system;
(3) creating and updating the early childhood care, health, and education plan for the state;
(4) developing accountability standards for services and aligning them with desired results;
(5) approving and monitoring the annual operating budget of the Vermont alliance for children;
(6) hiring and overseeing staff of the Vermont alliance for children;
(7) improving coordination of funding sources;
(8) pursuing diverse funding sources to sustain, expand, and enhance services;
(9) addressing policies, rules and regulations that pose barriers to unified service delivery;
(10) developing common data measures;
(11) establishing and affiliating with nongovernmental organizations as needed for fundraising and other purposes;
(12) establishing and approving regional affiliates and their early childhood care, health, and education plans and disbursing funds in accordance with those plans;
(13) developing expectations for regional affiliates and providing technical assistance to those affiliates;
(14) reviewing and acting upon requests from regional affiliates for waivers from policies, rules, or regulations that impede their ability to address local priorities; and
(15) taking actions as are necessary to establish and maintain the Vermont alliance for children as a functioning entity.
§ 5004. MAINTENANCE OF EFFORT
Private funds generated through the Vermont alliance for children shall be used to support early childhood services which are not supported by state funding.
§ 5005. ANNUAL REPORT
(a) Prior to January 31 of each year, the Vermont alliance for children shall submit a report concerning its activities to the governor and the legislative committees with jurisdiction over matters relating to education, human services, commerce, and appropriations. The report shall include the following:
(1) a description of activities during the preceding year;
(2) data on progress toward system outcomes;
(3) recommendations to improve the provision of programs and services; and
(4) data on the fiscal status of the system and funding recommendations.
(b) In addition, the Vermont alliance for children shall report to the governor on a quarterly basis, updating him or her on the activities for the quarter. The report may be filed electronically.
Sec. 4. APPROPRIATION
There is appropriated the sum of $100,000.00 from the general fund in fiscal year 2005 to the Vermont alliance for children to initiate operations and to enhance services within its priority areas.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street