Early Learning Coalition of Putnam and St. Johns Counties
440 N. State Road 19, Suite 440, Palatka, FL 32177
Dawn Bell, Executive Director
386-328-8225, ext. 204
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OP-ED: Stop Shifting Our Children’s Futures Around – More Money
Needs to Be Put Into Early Learning
Issue: New funding formula means $200,000 less dollars for Putnam
and St. Johns Subsidized School Readiness program
PALATKA, Fla., August 25, 2012 — School readiness helps children benefit from early learning and prepares them for future academic success. A December report by the state Auditor General concluded Florida has not been funding school readiness programs in a way which accounted for the state’s shifting demographics. As a result, the state Division of Early Learning is phasing in a new formula over the next six years. State funding will gradually shift from areas with slower population growth, including Alachua, Big Bend Regions of Gadsden, Taylor, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Wakulla; Brevard, Putnam and St. Johns counties, to areas that have experienced rapid growth in recent years.
However, this means the funding for the Early Learning Coalition of Putnam and St. Johns counties (ELC) will significantly decline by more than $200,000 this year, with expiring federal grants accounting for the rest of the drop. Funding could further decrease in the coming years as the formula gets fully phased in with a potential loss of more than a million dollars.
Children’s intellect grows faster in the first six years than any other period of their lives. Fifty percent of this under-six-population in Florida is from low-income families and 56 percent of the children financially qualify for school readiness after-school and summer programs. Currently, there are more than 65,000 children on the statewide wait list to receive school readiness subsidy services.
Despite the staggering number of children wait- listed, over the past decade the combined federal and state funding for School Readiness services has decreased by almost $53 million. This translates to a loss of services for more than 13,000 children.
Moreover, without the help of Early Learning Coalitions, these parents may not be able to work without compromising the welfare of their children, foreshadowing the likeliness of children living in the same poverty as their parents.
Consequently, the coalitions from different parts of the state have discussed banding together to ask the Legislature for funding to curb the size of their waiting lists, rather than fighting among themselves about the way the money is divided.
This is a time in which program funding should be increasing, not decreasing. Providing a poor quality product is a waste of taxpayer dollars and will not give Florida the outcome needed for future economic success.
Florida’s citizens and policymakers are strongly urged to advocate for additional school readiness funding. Early learning services should be viewed as an investment for Florida’s future prosperity. Just moving already limited funding around the state is not the answer. The answer is investing in the healthy minds of children now while it’s less costly, rather than investing more money down the road trying to fix detrimental mistakes.
Simply put, there needs to be more money put into early learning for our children and our future communities.