Trying to ensure quality, as a result, has been an uphill battle.
“Clearly the current allocation is far too low,” Aloupis says. “Advocates at this time are pushing for $3,000 per slot, and we would like to eventually see it more on par with K-12 just under $7,000 per child,” Aloupis explains.
To respond to this deficiency, The Children’s Movement includes the following early education initiatives on its 2014 agenda:
Support adequate funding for School Readiness ($50 million) and VPK ($3,000 per slot).
Require the use of evidence-based curricula in all VPK classrooms and provide materials and support for implementation.
Amend the School Readiness statute to stabilize benchmarks and education-based standards for early learning and school-age care to prepare children for success, enhance the private business model of early learning, and ensure accountability of public funds.
A visionary and a realist, Lawrence is as passionately supportive of his state as he is critical of it. He is as proud of the inroads it has made to increase access to preschool as he is dedicated to not settling for anything less than a quality opportunity for all children.
“Florida is a state that has made gains in education,” says Lawrence, who is also administrator of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and a member of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet. “But we’re not close to the Promised Land. Florida’s a very big state 19 million people, 220,000 born a year a big place with great potential for growth, and great challenges.”
“Florida still needs significant growths in (early education) standards,” he continues. “And the state needs to do significantly better on data so we can know what progress children are making.”
Aloupis, a non-practicing attorney, says that several factors should be included when measuring a child’s readiness for kindergarten.
“If you’re just relying on the kindergarten-readiness scores (from the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener), it is somewhat misleading,” he says. “You can have one child who has clearly had a (stronger educational) foundation because the parents are better informed and are reading with the child, as opposed to a child who doesn’t have that. The results are going to be unreliable. What we need is a comprehensive pre- and post-assessment (for pre-K), so we as a state can have a full understanding of what works and what does not.”
In what Aloupis calls an “evolutionary process,” Florida advocates have been working nonstop to get lawmakers to commit to increasing funding to slots and quality enhancement. “We’ve been with the Governor 10 times in the last 18 months,” he says.
Governor Rick Scott appears to be a proponent of early education. His budget proposal this year included allocating $1.1 billion to early childhood education and care, an increase of nearly $60 million over the previous year. This would mean around a $100 per slot increase in VPK, bringing the per-slot allocation to just under $2,500, still lower than the initial allocation.