Miami-Dade County

Gov. Rick Scott touts record on early childhood education

Gov. Rick Scott visited a daycare center in Little Havana on Tuesday touting his early childhood education proposals on what was the first stop of his gubernatorial campaign’s “Caring for Florida Families” tour.

He talked about adding 270 additional child protective investigative personnel and a boost in funding for the state’s popular Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program. He is proposing every child receive an additional $100 a year to attend preschool, an amount he says would be the largest increase in a decade.

He also plans to expand the number of “personal learning accounts,” which provides up to $9,000 to parents and caretakers with disabled children to be spent for educational purposes. In addition, he wants to implement a hot-line service, “Help Me Grow,” for parents to have instant access to needed services.

“No matter what country you are from, what ZIP Code you live in, you get a shot to live the American dream,” Scott said in talking about why he was making early education a priority for his administration.

At the Little Havana news conference, early education advocates applauded Scott’s initiatives but also emphasized that more needs to be done for the state’s youngest children.

“Money is just one piece of this puzzle” said Adrian Alfonso, chairman of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe. “Improving early learning educational standards and accountability ... is one way that we can get taxpayers a better return on their $1 billion investment.”

When asked about recent polls showing he trailed Charlie Crist, the likely Democratic opponent in November, Scott said he is “sure that the voters will reject [Crist’s] failed record on jobs.”

Scott’s tour will continue with scheduled stops in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and Fort Myers, according to his campaign.