Today, Governor Rick Scott highlighted increased funding for early childhood education at the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida. The Governor’s “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget” proposes $1.1 billion in state funding for early childhood education and care. This is an increase of $59 million and the largest boost for early learning in the past decade.

Governor Scott said, “A quality early learning system is essential to provide Florida children with the tools they need to succeed. This $1.1 billion investment will result in an increase of $100 per child for Voluntary Prekindergarten. This funding will help to better prepare children as they start school. As the grandfather of three young boys, I appreciate just how important these early years are and I want to be sure Florida’s children have the best early learning opportunities possible.”

Citing a report he announced last week, the Governor noted that for the fifth consecutive year Florida students who completed the VPK Education Program were better prepared for kindergarten than those who only attended part of the program or did not participate in VPK at all.

Executive Director of the Office of Early Learning Shan Goff said, “Florida’s commitment to VPK has been working well as the percentage of children completing the program who are ready for kindergarten continues to rise each year. The Governor clearly recognizes its value by proposing the additional funds for VPK in his budget.”

Senator Bill Montford, Vice Chair of the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee said, “As a former high school principal and school superintendent, I know the importance of early education. Children deserve the best opportunity to succeed that we can offer and the earlier we begin, the better chances they have. Governor Scott understands the importance of early learning for Florida children and I applaud his efforts to promote it.”

Representative Marti Coley, House Speaker pro tempore said, “Investing in young learners not only better prepares them for kindergarten but also builds a solid foundation for lifelong learning. I applaud the Governor’s commitment to Florida’s children.”

Representative Marlene O’Toole, Chair of the House Education Committee said, “I commend Governor Scott for making time to visit a VPK center to see first-hand the work being accomplished – hats off.”

Representative Erik Fresen, Chair of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee said, “Florida led the way early on when voters passed a Constitutional amendment to start voluntary prekindergarten. It is gratifying to see the Governor continue to support our state’s early learning leadership.”

Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida Board Chair Jon McFatter said, “When government and local communities work together with a common goal in mind, the outcome is always positive as we see today with the success of VPK. We are appreciative of the Governor’s support.”

Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida Executive Director Lynne Eldridge said, “As we celebrate the success of one of Florida’s educational initiatives for young children, we are reminded of the critical need to continually ask ourselves, ‘Are the Children Well?’ and work toward that end. Governor Scott does that and it shows.”

The additional funding proposed for early learning in the Governor’s budget includes a $100 per child increase in the base student allocation for VPK, a one-time $30 million increase in funding for the School Readiness Program, and money for teacher scholarships and training.

More than 174,000 children—about 80 percent of Florida’s 4-year-olds—were enrolled in VPK in 2012-13. The program is free for children who are Florida residents and will be 4 years old by September 1 of the year they would enroll.


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