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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Tea party to Rick Scott: Don't apply for Race to the Top money



Second update, 2:21 p.m.: Gov. Scott just issued a statement saying the grant, if awarded, will only be accepted if there are no strings attached and will not be implemented if the state finds unexpected new regs on business. Full statement below.

Update, 2:06 p.m.: The state is applying for the grant. A press release just issued from the state's Office of Early Learning says it's in line with Gov. Scott's commitment to "conservative principles at work." The full release is cut-n-pasted below.

A Florida tea party group wants Gov. Rick Scott to nix the state's application for a $100 million federal grant geared towards early childhood programs. The Race to the Top "Early Learning Challenge" will mean bigger government, higher pre-K costs, the undermining of private businesses, a loss of legislative control and a violation of state constitutional provisions regarding school boards, among other issues, says The Tea Party Network in Florida, which says it represents more than 70 tea party groups.

The Orlando Sentinel education blog is reporting that Scott has already signed the application, which is due today. Here's a press release from the tea party group that includes its letter to Scott:

Florida, October 18, 2011 –The Tea Party Network (TTPN) wants the Governor to pass on “The Race to the Top” Grant money. “This grant not only cost Florida taxpayers more in the long term, it will remove quality control away from the legislative process, and it goes against the Florida State Constitution” said TTPN Chair, Patricia Sullivan. “For States to regain control of education and bring it back to the local level, they must stop taking federal money and the strings that come with the money.” The following letter from the TTPN Education Leadership Team was delivered to Mr. Rex Newman, Officer of Citizen Services on Tuesday, October, requesting Governor Scott not apply for the Federal Race to the Top Education Grant.

Dear Governor Rick Scott,
We appreciate the work you are doing for the citizens of Florida and hope you will give the following request your strongest support. Do not apply for the Race to the Top grant. The money might look attractive now, but it will result in costing us more in the long term. The grant will require the private child-care and Pre-K facilities to comply with the Quality Rating Improvement System, a system that has not been proven to work, and is not self-sustaining. Rather, it will drive up the cost of child-care and Pre-K, forcing many private establishments to close, thus reducing availability for all Florida families. With the new standards in place, and the private facilities terminated, the state will then be compelled to fill the higher-priced void, all on the backs of the taxpayers. No less significantly, it will allow a regulatory agency to have control over family child- care, nannies, etc. with the power to circumvent the legislative process and therefore have no oversight.
Let the private facilities continue to provide the quality of child-care and education parents desire without burdening them with undue regulation and cost. Look past the shiny dollar signs and into the more costly future of Florida. Again, please do not apply for the Race to the Top grant. The issues are:
1) It will mean government increasing in size.
2) It will mean getting stuck with a bill we can’t afford.
3) It will mean an agency headed by the Early Learning Coalition can control private (school) businesses through the QRIS and citizens will not be able to appeal to the legislature to stop the regulations.
4) It will mean private businesses will close because they cannot make a profit after they try to implement the regulations.
5) It will go against our State Constitution: SECTION 4. School Districts; School Boards
The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district and determine the rate of school district taxes within the limits prescribed herein. Two or more school districts may operate and finance joint educational programs.

And here's the press release from the state's Office of Early Learning:

Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, the State of Florida will submit its application for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant and is one of four states eligible for the highest award amount totaling $100 million.  This grant is reflective of Florida’s vision in developing a world class education system and will help provide Florida’s children with a foundation to achieve valuable jobs in the global marketplace.
The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge aligns with the commitment Governor Scott has made to education.  It is a plan that infuses resources into Florida’s early learning system, makes a positive investment in Florida business and prepares Florida’s children for school and life success.
How the Challenge Grant Works:
·         Serving High Risk Children
The Challenge Grant partners with private businesses to meet the needs of high risk children. Utilizing demographic data, areas of historically high risk will be targeted.  Childcare providers serving high risk children will have the option of participating in the process. Childcare providers will also have access to mini-grants to build capacity for delivering services to high risk children. 
·         Administration
Early Learning Coalitions will administer the process in local areas and will be held accountable for how funds are allocated and utilized. Childcare providers will receive funding through mini-block grants.
·         Measurable Results
The Office of Early Learning will monitor progress towards desired outcomes and spending to ensure positive results for children and support to small businesses.
The Challenge grant is in line with Governor Scott’s Commitment:
·         Participation is optional                                                                                                      
No childcare business in the State of Florida will be forced to participate in this process.   It’s an optional benefit to strengthen the valuation of businesses. 
·         Conservative Principles at Work                                                                                       
Smaller government and localized solutions are the backbone of this approach.   This leverages the strength of the private sector to provide localized solutions to serve at risk children.
·         No strings attached                                                                                                 
If the grant package comes back from the federal government with new required regulation or constraints with how Florida spends the money, we will not accept it. 
·         No new business regulations                                                                                            
The grant application does not impose additional regulations on businesses, but will hold providers and Early Learning Coalitions accountable for spending grant dollars wisely. 
·         Streamlining of existing regulations                                                                                 
The Office of Early Learning, Department of Education, Department of Children and Families, and Department of Health working collaboratively to eliminate duplicative, cumbersome approaches.
·         No legacy spending
 There will be no commitment to additional state resources currently or in the future. 
·         Smaller government and localized solutions
The grant will be implemented in local communities across the State of Florida, utilizing our existing framework.  State government will not grow.
The Office of Early Learning has garnered wide ranging support for this proposal. Business leaders including Publix, Walt Disney World, Fifth Third Bank, Northern Trust, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Baptist Health, Bank of America, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, as well as Florida’s Association for the Education of Young Children, Florida Family Child Care Home Association and the Redlands Christian Migrant Association realize a strong and vibrant early learning system serves as the foundation of our education system. 

And here's the statement from Gov. Scott:

Tallahassee, Fla. – “Florida’s decision to compete in the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge is anchored on the bedrock conservative principles of smaller government and local solutions.  This application will target at-risk children by offering support and training to existing private sector providers through block grants at the state-level, not by creating new government programs, to ensure every Floridian has a chance to receive a quality education. 
“The grant application designed by the Office of Early Leaning is the product of extensive consultation with private providers to find creative solutions that address a true need of those Florida children that have fallen through the cracks.  The key condition for Florida’s participation in the Race to the Top Program is our commitment to ensuring that no federal strings are attached to any grants awarded and that no new burdensome regulations will be placed on private providers.
“The Office of Early Learning, together with my own staff, worked hard to structure a Race to the Top application that requires no additional state spending obligations—current or future, no requirements for future legislative action, and no new government programs that unduly burden state taxpayers and commit state dollars to federal unfunded mandates. 
“To be clear, Florida will only accept these grant dollars if the award comes back with no strings attached.  Additionally, if during the process of implementing this grant, the state finds unexpected new regulations being placed on private businesses, I pledge that Florida will not move forward with implementation.
“Additionally, any provider receiving funds will be asked to acknowledge that these grant funds are temporary and are not intended to build programs that will require additional state spending when the grant dollars are gone.  I am also committed to working with the Legislature to hold Florida’s Early Learning Coalitions accountable for spending these dollars wisely.
“Florida’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge application is consistent with my vision for a world-class education system in the Sunshine State and meets our goal of ensuring the every Floridian has an equal opportunity to gain a quality education.  It is my sincere belief that focusing on these at-risk children will save the citizens of the State of Florida from the economic and social costs that come from long-term dependence on welfare programs that are funded with their tax dollars.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 2:21pm]


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