Florida ranks the second highest among states providing access to state funded early childhood education to children in the nation. The state has approximately 9,165 children under the age of three enrolled in Early Head Start and 6 percent of 3-year-olds served by Head Start. In addition, 78 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded pre-K. In an effort to improve these circumstances, Gov. Rick Scott traveled across the state this year promoting his plan to allocate $1.1 billion in funding for early childhood education and child care. Because Florida meets very few quality standards when it comes to pre-K, lawmakers and advocates also used this year’s legislative session to push for greater safety and teaching standards. Additionally, the average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $8,299.
- What the governor is saying: Florida Gov. Rick Scott this year showcased his proposal to boost early childhood education as he traveled around the state. His budget proposal included $1.1 billion in funding for early learning and care, a $59 million increase from last year. While pushing for support of this funding and promoting his education agenda, Gov. Scott said, “A quality early learning system is essential to provide Florida children with the tools they need to succeed.”
- What’s happening in the legislature: Early childhood education was in the spotlight during the recent state legislative session. The largest budget in the state’s history saw an overall 2.3 percent increase for early childhood education. This includes an $8.8 million increase for the voluntary pre-k program, $10.5 million for a quality pilot of the state’s school readiness program which provides child care for children of low-income workers and $3 million for additional slots. Though a bill intended to upgrade the health, safety and teaching standards in the state’s early childhood education programs was killed, House Education Chairwoman Marlene O’Toole believes it is desperately needed and plans to sponsor it again next session.
- Support from the business community: The president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the chairman of The Children’s Movement of Florida praised the business community’s support of investments in early childhood education “to stimulate economic growth and job creation in Florida.” The Florida Chamber Foundation also announced in April 2014 a Business Alliance on Early Learning that would focus on bringing together key leaders in Florida on the issue of early childhood education.