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Funding for kids is justified

Vail Daily Editorial

Our public officials are elected to represent us. They are elected to spend taxpayer money wisely and they are elected to look out for our interests.

They are elected to look out for our community.

That’s why our county commissioners use taxpayer money to operate and maintain services for our senior citizens.

That’s why they pay sheriff’s deputies to protect us from harm, and to seek justice when we have been harmed.

That’s also why this Board of County Commissioners should choose to fund $1.6 million worth of programs aimed at making life for local young kids and families more successful.

Life is far from perfect here. A study of early childhood needs showed $6 million worth of problems for young kids and their parents. The study revealed significant gaps in health and dental care for low-income kids, a system that fails to identify kids who are at risk of struggling in school or life, and an economy that isn’t responsive enough to the demand for more child care.

The proposal before the commissioners in no way addresses all of the problems identified in the early childhood study. It will help to get a few new things off the ground, like training so we can begin to recruit and retain enough early childhood instructors to meet the need for child care. It will help expand the reach of programs that give low-income mothers access to prenatal care and give low-cost or free dental care to kids whose families can’t afford it. Those are just a few of the programs the money would fund.

The Early Childhood Council, the author of the proposal, hopes the $1.6 million will do enough to start addressing the need and serve as “seed money” to attract dollars from the towns and private businesses.

If approved, the county also would be signing up for the long haul. County funds would have to be used every year to keep these programs running, and to pay for staff to run them, and possibly new child-care facilities. Make no mistake, this move would be the beginning of a long-term, and yes, expensive investment.

But the county already is in the business of families and kids. The Miller Ranch Child Care Center, which was built under the direction of a much more conservative board, is an example of this.

And given the studies that show how vital it is to give kids a good start early in life, before they reach school, this investment is wise.

Much like our affordable housing problem, local leaders have to make a choice when it comes to keeping families and kids here. They can wash their hands of any responsibility, and continue to let our second-home-driven economy ” an economy that refuses to follow the laws of supply and demand ” push out workers, families and kids. Or they can choose to be a part of the solution that keeps the community in our county.

” Tamara Miller for the Editorial Board


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