A well-known Hollywood actress was in Vermont Thursday, advocating for greater investments in early childhood education.
“I’m here to celebrate something happening that’s right,” Jennifer Garner, the star of movies like “13 Going on 30” and the TV show “Alias,” said of Vermont policymakers’ attitudes toward early learning and access to high-quality child care.
The actress was in Burlington, reading to kids at the Robin’s Nest Children’s Center, and representing the Save the Children Action Network—the political advocacy arm of Save the Children.
Garner is a longtime advocate for greater public investments in early childhood learning, especially for kids from low-income families.
She said that brain development from birth to five years old is really critical to closing the achievement gap.
“These kids are going to go to kindergarten and hit the ground running,” Garner said of the pre-schoolers at Robin’s Nest. “They are ready to go. But if you’ve never been in this environment, then you can see your brain hasn’t grown the way it has a shot to grow, and if it doesn’t, the chance is gone.”
Garner praised Vermont’s elected leaders for prioritizing pre-school opportunities and child care in a tri-partisan way.
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“We all share the same goals,” said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, standing with Rep. Mitzi Johnson, a Democrat who serves as Vermont’s House speaker, and Sen. Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive who is the president pro tem of the Vermont Senate.
Lawmakers still have a lot of specifics to hammer out in the Vermont Legislature to ensure better access to high-quality care and early learning opportunities—as well as figuring out how to fund them—before any bills go to the governor’s desk for his approval.
“There are some tough decisions to be had along the way, but I’m glad we’re having conversations about how we can make it work,” Johnson said.
Scott said he sees the issue as an economic development tool, as he looks to reverse the state’s workforce shortage and aging demographics.
Scott said he is optimistic young parents in cities like Boston, New York, or Washington D.C. may consider moving to Vermont if they see the availability of high-quality and more affordable child care and early learning opportunities for their kids.
The governor has prioritized attempts to reverse what he often refers to as Vermont’s demographic crisis.
“If we can lead regionally and nationally in affordable and accessible childcare that is high quality and feeds into our already strong K-12 system, we will be ahead of the curve in attracting families to Vermont,” Scott predicted.
Mark Shriver heads the Save the Children Action Network and is also President John F. Kennedy’s nephew.
He knows budgets are tight everywhere, but Shriver said he wants to see more state capitals paying attention to early learning the way Montpelier is.
“Vermont’s leading the way,” Shriver told NBC10 Boston and necn. “There’s a couple other states that are doing well, but this is a national issue and we want to use Vermont as an example.”
As Garner wrapped up reading time at Robin’s Nest, it was clear the actress wants future success stories written about the kids at the center.