United Way of Broward County
2014 Legistative Agenda

 

Quality Standards for Early Learning Providers

 

United Way of Broward County calls on the Florida Legislature to mandate uniform quality standards for all early learning providers.


 

BACKGROUND:

The foundation for communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork - skills that employers nationwide cite as critical to workplace success - is developed by age five. Research shows that investing in high quality early education yields big returns. Yet school readiness funding has declined by almost $100 million since 2001 and more than 60,000 children are on School Readiness waiting lists statewide.

 

According to a 2013 study by the Children’s Forum, 68% of early learning programs in Florida are of "minimally adequate" quality and almost 20% are "low quality". The National Institute for Early Education Research ranks Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) Program 35th among 38 states in per pupil funding and reports that the Sunshine State’s VPK program meets only three of ten nationally recommended standards.

 

Approximately 65% of children receiving child care assistance in Broward County are placed in accredited programs, and the remaining children are enrolled in unrated programs with unknown quality levels. Research has shown that poor early learning experiences negatively impacts children’s development. Child success is essential to Florida’s future, and taxpayer investments reflect hard-earned money that should be invested wisely. The benefits of quality early learning require adequate funding.

 

PROPOSED CHANGES:

  • ALLOW providers up to two years to meet quality standards from an approved accreditation body. Providers should also be given support to achieve quality rating and build their capacity.
  • AMEND Florida statutes to implement mandatory state approved accreditation standards for all early learning providers, using existing accreditation bodies, i.e. APPLE, NAEYC and NAC, and give all providers the option of choosing from any approved accreditation bodies.
  • REVISE the State’s interpretation of parental choice’ to match the Federal guidelines. Child Care Development Fund requires parental choice of type of child care setting. Federal requirements do not indicate that choice is open. Parental choice can and should be limited to programs that meet defined quality standards.
  • AMEND Florida statutes to restrict public funding to only providers meeting specified quality accreditation standards from approved child care accreditation bodies.
  • IMPLEMENT an effective and consistent quality rating system to assess, improve and communicate the level of quality in early learning programs, and give parents better information to guide their choice of provider.

FISCAL IMPACT:

  • Increase school readiness budget an additional $50 million to reduce the wait list and fund quality improvements.
  • For early learning providers accreditation is costly. On average, it will cost a provider $3000-$4000, plus consultation fees to obtain accreditation.
  • Increase VPK budget to $106 million by increasing the Base Student Allocation from $2200 to $3,000.