School board, city council candidates talk early childhood education during forum
Majority of candidates say they would support bond measure to support early education
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Drawing on their own experience as parents and grandparents, candidates for Steamboat Springs City Council and the Steamboat Springs School District Board of Education discussed early childhood education at a forum on Wednesday hosted by First Impressions of Routt County.
Asked about improving access and affordability of early child care, at-large candidate George Krawzoff said when he was caring for his own granddaughter, he had looked into opening a daycare in his home but found the process “overwhelming” and beyond the capacity of most individuals. He talked about providing support to make that process easier.
With three children under the age of 10, at-large candidate Jason Lacy lauded the Human Resource Coalition and programs that provide scholarship dollars and organizations, like First Impressions, that provide multiple avenues of support.
Drawing on his experience with United Way, District II candidate Michael Buccino spoke about the importance of supporting and expanding the in-home child care network, especially for kids under 2 years old.
Board of Education candidate Kelly Latterman discussed working with large employers, including the school district, to provide more infant care options for employees.
Kim Brack, a Board of Education candidate, talked about providing better parental leave options, as is done in other countries. Board of Education Candidate Lara Craig also discussed the lack of federal support for parental leave compared to the rest of the developed world and the need to better support young families at all levels.
Board of Education candidate Tony Rosso urged collaborative efforts to create opportunities for mothers and fathers to spend more time with their young children.
Board of Education candidate Chresta Brinkman also urged a collaborative approach and praised programs like the United Way’s Imagination Library, an early literacy program.
Joey Andrews, current board president, discussed the birth to infant time in a child’s life as the most critical and stressed the need for increased community awareness on the importance and challenges of providing that early care.
The panel was also asked about providing living wages for early child care teachers and how to connect families to the available resources.
Rosso noted that, in this era, people are expected to find organizations online, and there is a need for more on-the-ground outreach. Brinkman stressed beginning the connection to resources in the prenatal stage. Brack suggested a “one-stop” resource.
An audience member asked about the proposal to bring preschool into elementary schools. Latterman said the board’s language regarding the bond allows for up to six new preschool classrooms or two in each elementary (new and existing) school.
She called it “forward-thinking” and said those classrooms would be filled and staffed based upon need.
Brinkman and Craig talked about accessibility and affordability and their own positive experiences with their children attending the public preschool program.
Rosso pointed out that “We’ve got to consider the whole community,” and there are available slots in the private sectors for 3- and 4-year-olds. Those slots typically subsidize infant care, he said, and he urged a balanced approach and conversation in making sure resources aren’t taken away from “the only people providing infant care.”
The forum ended with a question on whether the candidates would support a bond measure to support early childhood education. The majority answered yes, with stipulations about how it would be structured.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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