Thursday, April 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Keeping the promise of early childhood education

The science is catching up with what Florida voters understood in 2002 when they voted to publicly pay for a voluntary prekindergarten system for 4-year-olds: Investing early in children's education pays long-term dividends toward their success in life. But for all of the voters' foresight, the state has reneged on its commitment, providing flat funding for the past three years that is 12 percent less per child than what the state spent just five years ago. Gov. Rick Scott wants to increase the investment in the coming year by $100 a child. But state lawmakers should do better. It's an investment that will pay off.

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for more public support for preschool programs nationwide. Children who show up to kindergarten unprepared — unable to recognize letters and numbers up to 10 and to follow simple directions, for example — often continue to struggle for the rest of their academic career.

Science is starting to explain why and quantifying the linguistic disadvantages many lower-income children experience, including significantly less exposure to vocabulary during the brain's formative period. One study found a child of poor parents is exposed to 32 million fewer words by age 4 than a child raised by more affluent parents. David Lawrence Jr., a retired Miami Herald publisher who chairs the Children's Movement of Florida, saw what that meant in a lower-income Miami early learning classroom of 3- and 4-year-olds: Not one of the 21 children recognized the ears of a rabbit poking out of Old MacDonald's attire. Two children identified them as "cow."

Florida voters made sure this state was ahead of the curve, with nearly four out of five of the state's 4-year-olds taking part in the state's voluntary prekindergarten program that launched in 2005-06. But from the start, advocates have questioned the Legislature's implementation of the requirement, as curriculum decisions are left up to the private providers who make up most of the system. And for years, voluntary prekindergarten has clearly been underfunded.

The additional $100 a year per student increase, to $2,483, that the governor has proposed after three years of flat funding is still $194 less than the high of $2,677 in 2007-08. But even more sobering: It's $17 less than what the program's participants received for the inaugural 2005-06 year. Had the state just kept pace with inflation, the number would be $2,856.

The fact is that by shortchanging children on a relatively inexpensive investment, the state is shortchanging itself long-term. A provocative campaign launched by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national group of law enforcement officers and prosecutors, puts a simple point on it with the tag line, "I'm the guy you pay later." It's pushing to increase investment in preschool so that high school graduation rates will rise, decreasing the odds that those adults will turn to crime and society will bear the costs of incarceration and public safety.

Florida voters understood a decade ago that the better way is to invest early. Now the Legislature should find more money to ensure that promise is kept.

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Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18