Mayor’s Office

Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Progress in First Three Years of Early Learning Initiative

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
February 25, 2021 
Contact: Olivia LaVecchia
(802) 734-0617 

Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Progress in First Three Years of Early Learning Initiative 

Early Learning Initiative’s 2020 Annual Report finds 38 percent increase in high-quality infant and toddler child care spaces in Burlington 

Burlington, VT – In its first three years, the City’s Early Learning Initiative (ELI) has made significant progress in increasing the availability and affordability of child care in Burlington. The City today released the Early Learning Initiative’s 2020 Annual Report, which finds that since ELI began in 2017, the initiative has helped increase the number of high-quality infant and toddler child care spaces in Burlington by 38 percent, funded 57 child care scholarships for families with low incomes over the past two years, and leveraged additional State funding for the local child care market at a ratio of greater than 2:1. Over half of scholarship recipients were single parent households, and 72 percent of families needed child care to get or stay employed. 

“Three years ago, the City launched an innovative initiative designed to make child care more accessible,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “We did this because the research is clear that high-quality child care is crucial for the development of our youngest children and the well-being of working families, but it’s also clear that this care is out of reach for too many Burlington children and families. Today, I’m pleased to announce that our ELI 2020 Annual Report shows that this initiative has made great strides in its first years. I’m appreciative of the City team of Brian Lowe and Rebecca Reese for their leadership in this work, to our partners at Let’s Grow Kids, and to the City Council for their support. There is more work to do to make sure that all Burlington children have access to high-quality care, and I’m excited for the City to continue to be part of addressing this great challenge.” 

Progress in First Three Years of Early Learning Initiative 

The City’s Early Learning Initiative has a two-pronged approach to help address the challenges of both availability and affordability of child care in Burlington. One prong of the initiative is the ELI Capacity Grant program to help create new spaces for child care and stabilize existed spaces. The second prong of the initiative is the ELI First Steps Scholarship Program to provide scholarships to families with low incomes that help them afford and access high-quality care. Both programs focus in particular on care for children three years old and younger, where there is historically an acute need in Burlington. 

The ELI Capacity Grant program launched in 2017. Since that time, the program: 

  • Awarded $681,624 in grants to Burlington child care providers to directly support a 38 percent increase in high-quality infant and toddler child care spaces in Burlington; 
  • Provided funding to create 92 new high-quality spaces, 76 of which are for children zero to three and 15 of which are for children three to five; 
  • Provided funding to stabilize 166 existing child care spaces; and 
  • Supported the creation of two new, high-quality, and accessible centers in Burlington, one of which is located in the downtown off of St. Paul Street and one of which is located in the Old North End off of Riverside Avenue and in partnership with Head Start. 

Though about 350 children are born in Burlington each year,  research by Let’s Grow Kids, a partner in this City project,  indicates that there were only 201 high-quality child care spots serving Burlington and Burlington-area families in the City prior to the launch of the Early Learning Initiative. The ELI Capacity Grant program was designed to address that problem. 

The ELI First Steps Scholarship Program launched with a pilot in 2019 and an expanded program in 2020. Over this two-year time period, the program: 

  • Successfully funded 57 scholarships at 12 area child care providers, 53 percent of which supported single-parent households and 72 percent of which supported families that needed child care to support their return to the workforce; and 
  • Increased enrollment to the program by nearly 50 percent in its second year, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and pivoted to shift to rolling enrollment instead of an application deadline in order to provide families with greater flexibility given the uncertain times. 

The ELI First Steps Scholarship Program is designed in such a way as to help leverage available State financial assistance to increase the total amount of funding for child care in the Burlington market. As a result of this program design, every scholarship dollar generates more than double that amount in immediate, additional State funding support. To date, a total of approximately $246,000 ELI First Steps Scholarship Program dollars has leveraged an additional $514,000 in CCFAP funding for participating child care centers. The local funding also ensures that tuition is truly affordable for families, limiting any copayments to no more than 5 percent of the family income. 

By layering the ELI program on top of the State’s CCFAP, the City has been able to help create increased revenues for child care programs – which often operate on razor-thin margins – that have generated important benefits for child care providers. Partnering child care programs have shared, for instance, stories of being able to provide needed increases to teacher salaries thanks to the stable funding provided in part by the ELI First Steps Scholarship Program. 

"Affordable, high-quality child care can make a huge difference for a family, and this program is built to make it easier for Burlington families to get that opportunity,” said Brian Lowe, the City’s Chief Innovation Officer. “I am grateful for the Mayor and community providers’ support of the program and excited to see it transition to a new phase under the leadership of CEDO’s Rebecca Reese.” 

 “The success and progress of ELI speaks to the community partnerships we share with Let’s Grow Kids and our child care programs,” said Rebecca Reese. “ELI connects families to care and helps them navigate a disjointed and confusing process. Child care has always been important, but the pandemic has shown a spotlight on the situation, and I hope we can create a system that works for all Burlington and Vermont families. As it has always been, child care will be vital to our economic health, and I hope this program can play a role in our City’s recovery in the coming months and years.”   

Looking Ahead for the Early Learning Initiative 

Looking ahead, the City intends to continue the success of the Early Learning Initiative. The City has implemented several adjustments to the ELI First Steps Scholarship Program to expand access and create a more inclusive program as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. 

These adjustments include: 

  • Increasing scholarships so that no families have a copayment through June 30, 2021 and so that centers receive more tuition; 
  • Expanding enrollment to families up to and including 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). Previously, families had to be at or below 65% AMI. Expanding to 80% AMI will bring more families into the program and support more Burlington families during these trying economic times. Families with between 66 percent ($59,541 for a family of four) and 80 percent AMI ($73,350 for a family of four) will receive a flat scholarship of $125 per week to be put toward their child care tuition; and 
  • Continuing to accept enrollment on a rolling basis. 

Find additional information about enrollment on the City website: www.burlingtonvt.gov/it/earlylearning 

For additional information about the Early Learning Initiative, please see: 

Table 1. Indicators of Success – First Steps Scholarship Program totals August 2019- January 2021 

Success Indicator 

Outcome Measure 

More children in high-quality child care 

  • 70 applicants over two years 
  • 67 scholarships offered over two years 
  • 57 scholarships accepted for an 81% enrollment rate 
  • 30 children currently enrolled as of February 2021 
  • 7 families dropped out over the last 2 years 

Total Child Care Financial Assistance Program Funding secured for First Steps families 

  • Year 1: $222,957 additional state dollars 
  • Year 2: $293,245 additional state dollars (expected total at end of Aug. 2021) 

*Local investment leverages more than $2 in State funding for every $1 spent  

High-quality child care is available for children eligible for scholarship 

  • 91% of applicants were offered a space 
  • 38% increase in child care capacity funded through grants (high-quality, infant/toddler) 

Families have better economic well being 

  • 53% were single parent households 
  • 72% needed child care to get or stay employed 

Young children are more prepared for Pre-K and Kindergarten 

  • 88% of scholarship recipients stayed enrolled through the two scholarship years 
  • Enrolled children had attendance rate of 81% of open days* 

*Note that scholarships are paid to programs based on enrollment not attendance during the COVID-19 shut downs, which extended from March into June/July 2020. 

Press Release Date: 
02/25/2021
City Department: 
Mayor's Office