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Florida’s Early Learning, Once a Strength, Being Revamped to Look More Like Day Care

| April 6, 2013

It won't take that much to get there. (MWR)

It won’t take that much to get there. (MWR)

The House Education Committee on Thursday rolled out a revised plan to overhaul the state’s early childhood learning system, and appears ready to pass it next week over the concerns of some children’s advocates.

Opponents say they’re dismayed that the measure no longer would spell out specific learning goals for the youngest state residents. Current law sets out specific benchmarks for students in readiness programs, which provide subsidized child care to the children of low-income working Floridians and as the name implies, was initially meant to get them ready for school. Among those are the ability to identify colors, shapes, numbers and letters, express needs, comply with rules, limits and routines and follow verbal directions, among other things.

Those benchmarks, along with language expressing the importance of readiness programs, are removed from the proposed committee bill that emerged Thursday.

“That tells you something,” said Sam Bell, a lobbyist for children’s programs. “There’s really a clear line of demarcation…The emphasis is clearly on the day-care part rather than on the educational part.”

“The vision of the program has been removed,” Brittany Birken, CEO of the Children’s Services Council, told the committee. Birken offered to work with the panel to reinstate some of the educational provisions, and the panel’s chairwoman, Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake, accepted.

“This is not an assault on early learning in any way, shape or form,” O’Toole said.

But O’Toole also made it clear the stricken language isn’t likely to return.

“The Legislature is not going to set those expectations,” she said. “That is something that has to be done between the Department (of Education) and the providers.”

The measure would also move the state Office of Early Learning – currently an independent entity – fully into the Department of Education. It also takes aim at the prevention of fraud and abuse of the system for getting children learning opportunities in the years before they’re school-age.

Another area of concern for early learning advocates is a cap on the amount they can spend on indirect services, such as screening for developmental delays.

But the changes that opponents fear will remove the emphasis on learning are the big problem, said Alisa Ghazvini of the state Association of Early Learning Coalitions.

“It will be a program focused solely on identifying providers that meet licensure standards and are interested in serving children so that parents can work,” Ghazvini said. “We’re going to lose the part of the program that really focuses on helping our most vulnerable children get ready for school.”

O’Toole said the committee plans a vote next week.

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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9 Responses for “Florida’s Early Learning, Once a Strength, Being Revamped to Look More Like Day Care”

  1. RG says:

    The dumbing down of Americans begins this Way. This is the definition of third world mentality when kids are graduating with below standard reading and math this is where it starts. We will be closer to a country of service workers to the well to do and slaves to the government.

  2. intheknow57 says:

    Our education system is in a sad state. I really don’t know how much this program will really help anyway, as once these children get to school, the system fails them miserably. I feel bad for parents who can’t home school or afford private school..and feel worse for the children that are being robbed of a decent education! If you don’t agree..go sub for a few weeks…

  3. Linda Morgan says:

    What a disappointment. Why reduce standards that were clearly obtainable for our children. What is the logic here? I’ll admit that I had to look up “Demarcation”, but it means “to mark the limits of” or “to separate”. Are they trying to define our preschool kids by whether their parents can afford a private school? I just don’t understand. It is simple to me….making America stronger starts at our roots. You only have to look at nature to understand that the soil, seeds, watering, exposure to sun makes strong plants and trees!! What is it so hard to implement in our society?????? Sad and frustrating.

  4. Red says:

    No loss here. The assessment tools put in place were a joke to begin with. Parents can assess whether their children are getting good care and instruction. Good child care providers will survive, others will go out of business.

  5. Nancy N. says:

    Once again, Rick Scott and his cronies gut an education program…i guarantee that the only reason they are leaving this intact at all is because of the “welfare to work” component of the free childcare, which is a big thing for the Republicans.

    They want to force the parents to get off welfare and work, but they don’t want to actually educate the next generation to keep the cycle from repeating…

    Scott made a big show about giving money to the teachers, like he was being a friend of education. Actions like this prove he was just trying to buy off a huge voting block with that action while still going on his merry way as the state’s biggest enemy of education.

  6. Father of 2 says:

    Hard to feel sorry for the low-income families and their subsidized this and free that. My wife and I both work, but can’t afford to send our kids to any early learning center. We make too much money at under $90,000. We pay up the you-know-what in medical costs because we’re too rich. Our food costs are high because we’re too rich. We watch our pennies and dimes, don’t over indulge — we barely indulge. We are part of the 53% who pay taxes. This country and its leadership are screwing us. They are creating a welfare state. I don’t want to become part of the cradle-to-the-grave group. We can work more jobs, but at the expense of our kids?

  7. Flagler Native says:

    Well look at it like this, the government has to “dumb down” Americans starting with the youngest generation so that people will begin to not ask questions of our government. An intelligent people, is an unmanageable people, or at least that’s the way the government looks at it. Answer me this, What kind of public education system doesn’t even teach our children cursive writing anymore in school??? I ask Mr. Debrugge years ago that exact question. His reply? “In the future children will be able to write their name once and then copy and paste it to whatever document they need.” This is the governments mentality. My question to that was: Well, how can they copy and paste it if they can’t sign it in the first place??? He at that point changed the subject of our conversation. Can you imagine going to close on your mortgage and you can’t even sign your name?!?
    For all of you that HAVE to put your children through the torture of public school…i’m sorry
    For all of you that HAVE chosen to home school your children and educate them properly..I applaud you
    But whatever you do…however you do it….YOU the parents come first in your child’s education. Don’t trust the public education system to do it for you. Heck, what do they do anyway. All of you who have kids in school know that they wake up early, eat a cold lunch (that’s not healthy), they walk home alone to an empty house (in some cases) and then proceed to work on their assigned homework. Your children go to school for 6 or more hours a day..why can’t kids get it all done in school. Why send home’s homeschooling at that point. Every time one of you parents sit down and help your child do their home work, or do a lab with them etc, it’s home schooling, and your allowing the schools to not be held accountable. They are supposed to be teaching your kids. So why do children have homework? Why is it that I teach my kids at home 3 hours a day, and my 11 yr old knows Algebra 1? How is it he knows calligraphy, cursive, and some Japanese? What are the public schools (if you even want to call them a school) doing for your kids??? They don’t deserve the funding they’re given.

  8. Sherry Epley says:

    Yet again, Nancy, you are Right On! It will be a great day when this uncaring person and his uncaring cronies in our state legislature are out of office for good! Here again the hypocracy is sickening. Please voters, don’t be fooled by these games.

    Yes, our public education system is (because of these kinds of policies) far from the best it could be. . . BUT, we should not be “doubling down” and dumbing down our system even more. This is just one more wedge towards “for profit” “charter” (AKA Private) schools controlled by stock holders/religious doctrine. And the greater division between the “haves” and the “we don’t want you to have” goes on and on and on. . . towards Fascism, and away from true Democracy.

  9. Maxx says:

    I”m in 11th grade and still feel like I’m in day care. We still don’t do anything in school.

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