Last Wednesday, a United Way of Northeast Florida delegation joined other United Way advocates from across the state at the Florida Capitol for the first ever United Way Hill Days event.
At a meeting of over 50 advocates, House Education Appropriations Chair Erik Fresen spoke about the need to invest in Florida’s early learning system and that additional funding should be tied to performance measures that define what quality really means for our children. Afterwards, advocates were briefed on current state of issues included in this year’s United Ways of Florida Legislative Consensus Agenda.
Focusing on two priorities in the education and financial stability areas, the United Way of Northeast Florida delegation met with key legislators to promote additional funding to the state’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) and School Readiness programs, and also push for a proposal that would help replicate the success of our own RealSense initiative by investing $1.2 million to expand capacity of free tax preparation and financial literacy services statewide.
Though we are not expecting any substantive policy issues around quality in early learning to emerge this year, we are very encouraged by Governor Scott’s budget recommendations to continue the School Readiness Performance Funding Pilot that was implemented last year, and continue to climb back to pre-recession funding levels for Florida’s VPK and School Readiness programs.
Though we have one of the best VPK programs in the country in terms of access, we still remain well below the national average of $4,026 in per student funding, having committed $2,483 in the 2014-15 budget. In addition, Governor Scott’s recommended $30 million boost for the state’s School Readiness program will go a long way in reducing the estimated 60,000 children currently sitting on the waitlist to receive that assistance.
The 2015 legislative session begins on March 3 and continues for 60 days, ending in May. If you are interested in learning more about our Public Policy program, please contact Jason Roth at firstname.lastname@example.org.