Tallahassee, Fla. – Governor Scott announced today that the 2016-2017 Florida First budget recommends $1.1 billion in funding for the Office of Early Learning, an increase of approximately $51.7 million. These investments will help put Florida on track to becoming first in the nation for early child education and care.
Governor Scott said, “As a father and grandfather, I know quality early learning programs make a great difference in preparing children for future success in school. Florida is a national leader in prekindergarten access, and these investments in early education will ensure Florida is first in the nation for education and future jobs.”
- $398.6 million for the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program: The state’s free VPK program, which prepares 4-year-olds for kindergarten, had more than 166,500 children enrolled last year. The Governor’s budget includes a $9.3 million increase for VPK, raising the base student allocation $50 per child in the school-year program (from $2,437 to $2,487) and $43 per child in the summer program (from $2,080 to $2,123).
$20.3 million to reduce the School Readiness program waiting list: The School Readiness program helps eligible low-income families get child care so parents can work or attend training and/or education programs. Florida served approximately 216,000 children in School Readiness last year and had an average of more than 61,000 children on waiting lists statewide. The “Florida First” budget recommendations will serve more than 3,500 additional children.
$15.5 million for Early Learning Performance Funding: Performance-based funding improves outcomes for children in School Readiness by providing special training and incentives to child care providers and instructors.
Rodney MacKinnon, executive director of the Office of Early Learning, said, “Our state is a leader in early childhood education. Governor Scott’s budget makes it clear that he wants Florida to continue leading.”
David Lawrence Jr., chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida, said, "No one could argue that we are yet close to where we need to be on early childhood, but it is gratifying to see the Governor continue to push for progress in high-quality early learning. Investment in early learning is a central key to the future of public education and the future of Florida's children."
Matt Guse, CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend Region and chair of Florida’s Association of Early Learning Coalitions, said, “The Governor’s budget is good for early learning coalitions, the children and families we serve, and the child care providers we work with. Continuing performance funding for school readiness is a commitment to improving a program for young children who stand to benefit most from quality early learning.”
Harry Duncanson, chair of the Early Learning Advisory Council, said, “Early education and care for children from birth to age 5 are critically important investments that pave the way for a child’s success. We are pleased with the Governor’s budget recommendations and his continued support for early learning.”
Roy Keister, president of the Florida Association for Child Care Management, said, “"We continue to appreciate the Governor's recognition of how important it is to have high quality early learning environments for our children birth to five. It also allows Florida families to keep working while knowing their children are safe."
Adam Hasner, board chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County and former majority leader of the Florida House, said, “Investing in early learning is investing in children today and the workforce for our future. We are thankful for Governor Scott’s continued commitment and support.”
The budget in its entirety is available at http://www.FloridaFirstBudget.com/