Message From the President
An earlier legislative session this year represents an opportunity to address the needs of Florida's children with sufficient time for programs and services to "ramp up" and be ready for a July 1st beginning date. We are pleased with some of the initial budget proposals and are hopeful that other priorities will be addressed. As the legislature prepares for the final days of this year's legislative session, we will keep a watchful eye to encourage our policy makers to pass a budget that reflects a commitment to Florida's children and those who nurture and educate them daily. Our priorities include:
- $10 million for the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program which helps to establish a well-qualified, fairly-compensated and stable workforce for Florida's children. Operated by the Children's Forum, T.E.A.C.H. now offers scholarships for Bachelor degrees in Early Childhood Education for child care professionals. T.E.A.C.H. also provides scholarships for an Associate degree in early childhood education, the National Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential, Florida Staff Credentials, the Director Credential, and renewals for each credential.
- $3.88 million for the Help Me Grow Florida Program to promote healthy development for every child in our state. Help Me Grow Florida is designed to address the need for early identification of developmental and/or behavioral disabilities, and to link children and their families to the appropriate community-based developmental and behavioral services and supports.
- Increased funding for the School Readiness program that provides financial child care assistance to more than 200,000 low-income families and the Voluntary Prekindergarten program that provides state-funded preschool for all four-year-olds regardless of income.
- $15.5 million for performance-based funding to incentivize higher-quality programs for our most vulnerable children.
While we are making strides, we must do better. A report distributed by the Education Commission of the States found that policy makers are making significant investments in state-funded prekindergarten programs. A total of 32 states and the District of Columbia raised their prekindergarten funding levels from the previous fiscal year. Sadly, Florida was one of only nine states that decreased funding for prekindergarten programs. While Florida is a state leader in providing access to state-funded Voluntary Prekindergarten programs for all 4-year-old children, we must begin to set the tone as a national model for quality as well. We all know that high-quality early learning programs cost money, and that begins with a competent and fairly-compensated workforce. This won’t happen overnight, but the long-term economic and social gains are well worth the investment. Studies show that every $1 invested in quality early learning programs yields up to $17 in the long term as children are less likely to repeat grades and more likely to graduate high school and become productive members of society.
Join with us to ensure that Florida is a great place for all children... "because kids can’t wait…"
Phyllis Kalifeh, Ed.D.