We know that a strong education can be a ladder out of poverty, however too many Vermont students do not pursue higher education. My administration will work to change this story, and give our children a ladder by implementing Vermont Promise.
Vermont Promise: Tuition-free community and technical college for all Vermonters
Vermont Promise is my plan to provide two years tuition-free at Community College of Vermont (CCV) and Vermont Technical College (VTC), enabling all eligible high school graduates in Vermont to obtain high quality, post-secondary credentials. This will help break down barriers to ensure that our next generation is qualified for livable wage jobs and ensure that young Vermonters are not saddled with crushing student debt. As governor, I aim to have Vermont Promise available to students who enter college in Fall 2018.
Vermont Promise is critical to expanding economic opportunity and security for Vermont's working families and growing Vermont's economy. We know that holders of a two-year associate's degree make on average $12,000 more per year than those with only a high school degree, and this number increases to $32,000 when one has a bachelor's degree. Right now, two thirds of the jobs in Vermont require some form of higher education, and yet 40 percent of Vermont students do not go on to receive any kind of post-secondary education. By changing this story with Vermont Promise, we can ensure that students can access jobs that pay well, make sure that families have an affordable path to college, and make sure that businesses have the strong workforce they need in order to grow. Vermont Promise is a win-win-win for our state.
Vermont Promise will cost approximately $6 million in its first year, and $12 million by its second year of operation, when two years of students will be enrolled. I have proposed it be funded by a bank franchise fee on the largest banks and by expanding Vermont's corporate income tax to the biggest banks doing business in Vermont. Banks operating in New Hampshire and New York currently pay corporate income tax, but banks in Vermont do not. Under Vermont Promise, banks will pay their fair share, and students will get a fair shake.
My goal is that by 2025, three-fourths of Vermonters --or more-- will be enrolling in a postsecondary education or certification program. Vermont Promise participants must have completed high school within the last year, have a 2.5 GPA or higher, submit a financial aid application, and work with a volunteer mentor. Mentors help students navigate the admissions and financial aid process, and be a champion for students to fulfill their dreams.
Universal Health Care
I believe health care is a human right. The rising cost of health care is breaking our family budgets, school budgets, and our state budget. My priorities will be:
- Make Vermont Health Connect work.
Reform our system of payment and incentivize health outcomes, instead of incentivizing payment for more visits, prescriptions and procedures.
Put us on track to universal health care, either by expanding Dr. Dynasaur to cover Vermonters up to age 26, or through publicly-funded primary care.
Strengthen preventive care through home and community-based services to ensure that Vermonters receive care where they need it most, and keep people out of the hospital -- the most expensive place for care.
Integrate health care services to address the social determinants of health, such as homeless, mental health, transportation, substance abuse, domestic violence and other traumas and inequities.
Too many Vermonters are struggling to make ends meet. Wages are not keeping up with the cost of living and Vermonters face an economy that is stacked against them. Many Vermonters need to work 70 hours a week just to afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market value. The wage gap between men and women continues, and must end. The majority of minimum wage workers are women. The result is that 43% of Vermont women working full time do not make enough to meet basic living expenses. I will work to eliminate this gender wage gap. As Governor, I will work to raise the minimum wage to $12.50/hour by 2018 and continue a gradual step up to a livable wage of $15. Raising the minimum wage will provide greater economic opportunity to help lift working Vermonters out of poverty and provide better lives for themselves and their families.
Support Our Schools While Controlling Property Taxes
Vermont’s school system is one of the best in the nation, but our schools are struggling with declining enrollment and rising costs. The Agency of Education needs to support the unique educational needs of each community and help districts look for new opportunities for equitable and quality education. I support rethinking our school governance structure to enhance educational quality and find efficiencies and cost savings. Under-utilized schools can be repurposed as multi-generational community centers for education and social services. Thinking differently can help us build for the future while controlling costs and stabilizing property taxes.
Expand Early Childhood Education
As a working mother, I know the multiple benefits of early childhood education. Children are better prepared to learn, and parents – especially women – can earn an income. Children who have high quality early care and education are more likely to finish high school and continue beyond. With 50% of Vermont’s children arriving at kindergarten unready to learn, we must do more to improve education and caregiving for our youngest children — whose brains are already 80% developed by age 3. I will work to implement universal pre-K and explore public-private partnerships to make high quality, affordable early education, and parenting support available to Vermont families.
Child Care at Community College
Many young adults cite their children as a motivating factor for pursuing higher education or career training. However, the cost and accessibility of childcare remains a barrier. Parents are more likely to drop out of college than non-parents, and parents are less likely to complete their programs within six years of enrollment. I will work to provide access to quality affordable childcare to all of our community college students. This will help ensure our young adults have access to education, our kids have access to care and our businesses have access to workers with 21st Century skills.
Address Opioid Addiction
Vermont faces an opioid epidemic that is impacting our communities, our children, and our state’s economic future. The rate of opioid-exposed infants has doubled since 2009. I will invest in programs to prevent and treat opioid addiction and improve drug and alcohol prevention and rehabilitation. We must change prescribing habits, provide early intervention for families with high risk factors for substance abuse, and ensure that schools provide effective drug abuse prevention programs. Addicts need treatment, not jail time.
I support the legalization and regulation of marijuana, because it is clear that prohibition of marijuana has not worked. Young people in Vermont have greater access to marijuana than they do alcohol. My marijuana legalization plan has three elements:
- Effective regulation and distribution of legalized marijuana to ensure safe sales.
- Expanded substance abuse education and prevention programs in our schools.
- Enhanced highway safety enforcement to avoid expansion of impaired driving.