Office of Early Learning releases 2015-2016 annual report.
Progress through partnerships and hard work characterized much of 2015-2016. More than 207,000 children in Florida received school readiness services and more than 175,000 children were in VPK.
Highlights during the year included progress toward improving health and safety for children in school readiness programs. The 2014 Child Care and Development Fund Block Grant reauthorization included new federal requirements to strengthen health and safety standards affecting private and public school readiness providers—background screening and health and safety inspections. As the Florida Legislature amended laws to help implement new requirements, OEL worked with partner agencies, coalitions and early learning stakeholders to prepare for the changes.
The internal effort to develop and implement a comprehensive statewide early learning information management system to replace an outdated legacy system continued to make significant progress in 2015-2016. The Family Portal now allows families to complete the entire school readiness and VPK application processes online. They can upload eligibility documents, electronically sign applications, manage waiting list status and school readiness revalidation, and print out VPK certificates of eligibility. Facing a July 1, 2016, legislative deadline, OEL completed a milestone change extending VPK eligibility to young 5-year-olds.
There was progress, too, in improving quality, through efforts such as the Early Learning Performance Funding Project and strengthening a statewide professional development system for the early care and education workforce.
Early learning celebrated a significant milestone as well. Ten years after the first 4-year-olds began attending VPK in 2005, more than 1.7 million children have benefited from the successful program. A month-long celebration of VPK’s 10th birthday kicked off during 2016 Children’s Week. The celebration continued through February with activities and events across the state to draw attention to VPK. Early learning coalitions, VPK providers, teachers, families and students participated.
Read more about these highlights and more in the 2015-2016 Annual Report.