Early childhood funding will change in Vail Valley | VailDaily.com

Early childhood funding will change in Vail Valley

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Like just about every other project that receives money from Eagle County, the Bright Start early childhood project in Colorado’s Vail Valley is making do with less money this year. Now, county officials want to change the way the program is run.

Several county officials came to Thursday’s Bright Start board meeting to float the idea of replacing the current Bright Start board – made up of local early childhood professionals – with an advisory board made up of both people who work in the field and community and business representatives.

Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney said there are several reasons for seeking the change, including better accountability regarding spending taxpayer money and the amount of staff time currently dedicated to Bright Start projects.

Sherri Almond of the Eagle County Health and Human Services Department said the amount of staff time now being put into Bright Start “isn’t sustainable.”

“We’re all aware of the economic conditions,” Eagle County Manager Keith Montag said. “The economy isn’t doing well, and the county budget is suffering because of it.”

Given the slim chance of finding more money, or even the same amount of money, in the county budget for Bright Start in the coming years, Stavney said it’s crucial to bring more private-sector money to the program. Having business leaders on the advisory board could help that effort, he said.

But board members – some of whom have spent more than a decade working on local early-childhood projects – were uneasy about changing the system.

“This is something fundamentally different,” board member Beth Reilly said of a draft proposal to create a new board. “Our original guidelines reflect a community effort. This (draft) reflects a different mission.”

Cheri Paller has been working on early childhood programs in Eagle County since the 1980s. She said that a new advisory board could drive some current committee members away from the program altogether.

“If this new board loses Bright Start members, you’ll be losing thousands of hours of work and experience,” Paller said. That, she said, would be a “disaster.”

County officials and Bright Start committee members both pledged to meet again in the next month.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or at smiller@vaildaily.com.

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