Innovation & Technology

Early Learning Initiative

Here is the application to apply for the City's First Steps Scholarship Program. This application was updated to extend the eligible age range to include children born between 8/31/2016 and 7/1/19. Information about the program follows below.

Separately, at this link is the the application for the next round of City capacity grants for Burlington child care providers. This application is open as of July 12, 2019 on a rolling basis. Information about this program also follows below.

First Steps Scholarship Program

The City of Burlington’s Early Learning Initiative (ELI) has two components: A scholarship program for qualifying Burlington families known as the First Steps Scholarship Program and a capacity grant program for high-quality child care providers to help increase the number of available infant and toddler slots in Burlington.  Mayor Miro Weinberger began the Early Learning Initiative to address the fact that low-income Burlington children are disproportionately likely to be unready for school, experience a widening achievement gap as they age in the public school system, and are more likely to experience a range of negative outcomes later in life, including reduced educational achievements, higher rates of chronic health problems, higher rates of incarceration and drug misuse, and lower lifetime earnings. Ensuring an adequate supply of spots in early learning programs and improving access to those spots for our City’s most vulnerable children is vitally important in maintaining a vibrant community in which all children are given the opportunity to succeed.  

The First Steps Scholarship Program is an effort to increase access to high-quality child care for low income Burlington children through the provision of scholarships. In the first year, the application process will open March 1, 2019 for children born on or between August 31, 2017 and July 1, 2019. Scholarship recipients must be Burlington residents whose household income is at or below 65 percent of Area Median Income not currently enrolled in the State child care subsidy program, but participating child care providers are not limited to Burlington. 65 percent of AMI is about $59,000 for a family of four, and detailed rates by family size are included in the FAQ below.

The goal of the ELI Scholarship Program is to identify those eligible Burlington children not currently receiving State Child Care Federal Assistance Program (CCFAP) benefits, provide them scholarships to help access high-quality care, and also help enroll them in CCFAP.  The investment of City dollars and the leveraging of CCFAP not only helps connect children with high quality care, but also leads to improved education and health outcomes and increased public savings over time. The program design has benefited substantially from the input of a range of community stakeholders, including representatives from the Burlington School District, the UVM Medical Center, Head Start, the Vermont Community Loan Foundation, and many child care providers.

In the pilot year of the scholarship program, the intention is to provide ELI scholarships for 20 or more Burlington families eligible for CCFAP but not currently enrolled in high quality childcare, focusing on those children born on or between August 31, 2017 and July 1, 2019. In future years, the City hopes to increase the size of the program.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more detail about this program.

Please see the application for the First Steps Scholarship Program. 

Please see the one-page flyer that provides the most important details on the program and also offers a summary in multiple languages.

Please see the press release announcing the launch of the program, which offers additional detail and background.

Capacity Grant Program

Alongside the scholarship program, the City began in 2018 to provide capacity grants to high quality Burlington child care centers to increase the overall number of infant and toddler spots available in the community. These awards support the growth of high-quality child care, which has been demonstrated to help prepare children for school, narrow the opportunity gap, improve future health and education outcomes, and reduce future public spending.  The next round of award winners is expected to be announced in March 2019.

In 2018, the City made awards to 7 applicants, detailed below. In 2019, funding will be split between the scholarship program and the capacity grant program. Application are reviewed by a stakeholder advisory grant committee that includes the Chair of the City Council's Community Development & Neighborhood Revitalization Committee and a recommendation shared with the Mayor. The Mayor puts forward a proposal to the City Council for review and approval based on this recommendations. 

2018 Awardee

Award Amount

Burlington Children’s Space


Janet S. Munt Family Room


Full Circle Preschool


Pine Forest Children’s Center


Robins Nest Children’s Center


Sara Holbrook Community Center


Greater Burlington YMCA