Florida's prekindergarten program lacks quality, Pew Center claims
In the six years since Florida launched its Voluntary Pre-K program (VPK), the state has opened the early education doors to thousands of four-year-olds who didn't have access before.
The state even has increased its funding for the program after a couple of down years, unlike most other states.
Still, the Pew Center on the States' Pre-K Now campaign has little nice to say about the quality of VPK. The group says VPK "remains one of the lowest quality programs in the country" despite calls for improvement in areas such as teacher credentialing.
"Florida’s pre-k program serves a large number of children, which is significant, but state leaders have continued to ignore the quality components we know make a good program and which are crucial to ensuring children enter kindergarten ready to learn," former Gainesville mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said in the group's news release. "By increasing access without also improving quality, state lawmakers have not done enough to ensure Florida’s kids are prepared to succeed in school."
Pre-K Now leaders held out hope that Florida's Race to the Top grant will lead to improvements in VPK.
"Districts with low-performing high schools will be required to use the funds to implement high-quality pre-k programs,” said Marci Young,
director of Pre-K Now. "If these model programs succeed, it will provide more evidence for policy makers to increase program quality throughout the state."
Pre-k advocates have long called for changes to the law implementing the program, including additional classroom hours and different methods for assessing success. Lawmakers have not taken up any of the bills that have been proposed over the years.