Kudos to Florida’s mayors for actively encouraging Gov, Ron
DeSantis to make early-childhood education his priority and not to limit that priority to Florida’s universal Voluntary Pre-K program for 4-year-olds.
The emphasis in focusing on high quality, from birth onward, is exceptionally important, but there is an interesting sentence within the article that deserves additional discussion. It states that, “Florida has many high-quality Pre-K programs, and not a few otherwise.”
Why can’t we be honest and acknowledge that Florida’s Pre-K programs overall, as of 2017, tied for the lowest three states in meeting accepted quality standards benchmarks? Of 10 ten of these benchmarks, Florida met only three, according to a report by the National Institute for Early Education Research. So the comment above, “and not a few otherwise,” is a cute way of saying we actually aren’t doing that well.
Could it be that the high quality that we seek is inhibited by having one of the lowest budgets per child and that the amount per child actually decreased from the time of the Pre-K initiation (2006) in Florida to that in 2017?
Early care and education involving infants, toddlers and 3three-year-olds has its own problems. I am privileged to be associated with one of the best, i.e. the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Childhood in Miami. However, there are issues that make it difficult for many centers to truly achieve quality. What is particularly hard to accept with this is the knowledge that this is when
The basic foundation of the human brain is being created. In fact, that foundation has actually already started starts in the womb, so the prenatal period is also involved in the eventual success or failure of the human in later years and should not be ignored.
Enhancing quality in the sites that care for our youngest children cannot be done on the cheap, which is exactly what has been happening in our state. It is the long view, however, which should be driving our personal and political positions.
This is especially true with the advances in technology that will continue to require individuals who not only are well educated but who also have learned how to socially and emotionally work in changing environments. The mayors are right.
This is sound policy and must be considered an investment, both for the individual and for society.
The Children’s Forum,
Past President, The Florida Association for Infant Mental Health
5250 SW 84th Street