Troubling trend for Florida's pre-k
While other states are boosting their early education investments, Florida is heading in the opposite direction, national prekindergarten advocacy group Pre-K Now notes in its latest report, issued earlier today.
Listing Florida under the tag "Dubious Distinction," the organization calls out the state as the only one since 2006 to actually decrease pre-k funding, by 4 percent. It says:
The decreased appropriation promises to undermine both the quality and availability of critical early education programs. Legislators in Florida have damaged the prospects for their state's future fiscal health and economic competitiveness as well as the foundation for success for tens of thousands of young children.
What makes this move particularly disturbing, the group says, is that Florida was supposed to be a national model of how to do things right. Voters did, after all, mandate "high quality" prekindergarten for all the state's 4-year-olds.
This isn't the first time an organization has criticized Florida's efforts. The National Institute for Early Education Research also has said that the state does well in access but poorly in funding, while meeting only four of 10 quality benchmarks. (See its Florida assessment here.)
State leaders including Gov. Crist have said they want to improve the pre-k program, including adding increased requirements for teacher certification. So far, though, they've offered little more than words. In fact, Gov. Crist has recommended cutting the pre-k budget by another $22-million this year. To see the Times' most recent story on Florida's pre-k program, click here.
Libby Doggett, Pre-K Now's executive director, said she was saddened by Florida but she wasn't giving up hope. "The governor is one of the most popular governors in the country, and he's hired real capable staff," she told the Gradebook. "I know that they know this mandate was not a mandate for mediocrity."