Catching Up for Kindergarten

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Last year, political horse trading got in the way of improving regulations for early childhood programs.  Representative O’Toole’s bill, HB 7069, died on the last day of the session.   The 2015 legislative session starts in March.  Senator O’Toole is the new Chair of the House Education Committee.  Things may improve for little children.  Or, we may start pre and posting testing them!   Let’s see take a look at where we are and what may be ahead.

If we take a step back in time, we can see the progress made in the 2013 session.  That year, HB 7165 was passed.  The Office of Early Learning has an informative web page that gives detailed information on the implementation of the new law.

Here are some highlights:

  • Improved accountability:  Conflict of interest must be disclosed on boards; OEL approval for purchases over $25,000 from board members.  The disqualified center list is published monthly CoalitionZone sharepoint site
  • New Administrative Oversight: VPK moved to Independent Learning Office of Early Learning instead of FLDOE. Rules must be approved by State Board of Education
  • Religious and private vendor license exemption list is posted at www.myflorida.com/childcare Providers must post health and safety checklist on site.
  • VPK must have liability insurance; workers compensation; unemployment compensation
  • Base student allocation for 2013-14 =$2,383 during the year and 2,026 for summer
  • New standard contract for private VPK providers will be similar to new public VPK contract.
  • No change in educational requirements
  • Staff holding CDA or DCF approved equivalency must complete performance standards training course. It is online Also emergent literacy training

Not much happened in the 2014 legislative session, but the 2014-15 budget increased some funding:

  • Added $54 per student but this is still below 2005 levels
  • Increased slots for children by $3 million
  • Created a $10.5 million pilot program that provided a funding incentive for high need populations; a professional development system, a research-based observational system to improve instruction, and an alignment with Early Learning Florida for technical assistance.  Representative Fresen was quoted as saying this was ‘performance based funding for early learning’.  Providers with 30% of their children in a school readiness program are eligible to receive funding for participation.

Some priorities may reemerge in 2015. 

Here are the provisions that failed to pass in HB 7069 but may come up again in 2015.  There is also an effort to eliminate the five year restriction on participation in day care for children from legal immigrant families.

  • Require unlicensed providers to comply with health and safety standards and submit to inspections
  • Deny program eligibility for providers with serious violations
  • Require staff to be at least 18 years old; have a high school diploma; be trained in CPR and first aid.
  • Create a database to track teachers.

A bill has been filed to exempt some providers from licensing.  See HB 11 by Pilon.  This bill exempts after school programs and non-profit delinquency prevention programs from licensure requirements.  It seems more like a clarification of law rather than a change in law.

Standards for children from birth through age three are on the Florida Early Learning website.

These are interesting because you can get detailed examples of what children at different ages are expected to know and be able to do.  The standards include:

  • Approaches to Learning
  • Cognitive Development and General Knowledge
  • Language and Communication
  • Physical Development
  • Social and Emotional Development

What assessment is required for preschoolers?

  • A process for reviewing and approving a provider’s curriculum is required.
  • Voluntary pre post assessments.  A new assessment tool will be used to measure the developmental gains and document the growth and development of children in The School Readiness program.

What are other states doing?

The Ounce of Prevention Fund July 2014 summarizes early childhood priorities by state.

Posted in Early Childhood Education, Florida.

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