Why it Matters
The basic architecture of the human brain is constructed through an ongoing process that begins before birth and continues into adulthood. When you are building a house, you go step by step, beginning with a strong foundation. Just like a house, a strong foundation in children’s early years increases the probability of positive outcomes. A weak foundation increases the odds of later difficulties.
Since we understand this brain science, we know that the early years are pivotal for setting children up for future success. It is better to get it right when children are young than to try to repair a weak foundation later in life.
The Children’s Movement of Florida advocates for state funds to be invested in early learning initiatives that help lay a strong foundation for children so that their brains can develop seamlessly.
And the science is behind us. Expanding early learning initiatives would provide benefits to society of roughly $8.60 for every $1 spent, about half of which comes from increased earnings for children when they grow up, according to a recent analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Our Principles for Early Learning in Florida
Early learning does not start when a child enters Pre-K. We know that children learn from the moment they are born.
There are so many important milestones a child needs to reach before they are ready to learn the alphabet or count to ten. We want to acknowledge that learning starts at birth by providing programs that support early learning for families with young children.
he Children’s Movement of Florida is advocating for early learning programs to be viewed as a key part of the education continuum, with clear ownership to ensure quality programs, appropriate funding, and child outcomes.
Children’s ability to focus and pay attention, called executive function, is like Air Traffic Control at a busy airport. Some planes have to land and others have to take off at the same time, but there’s only so much room on the ground and in the air. Executive function regulates the flow of information and the focus of tasks, creates mental priorities and avoids collisions, and keeps the system flexible and on time.
We need to acknowledge that children’s executive function skills are still gearing up when they are in Pre-K, and that we need to assess our Florida Pre-K students based on standards that are appropriate for their age.
The Children’s Movement of Florida is advocating to adopt and implement the VPK assessment recommendations from the Committee on Early Grade Success, relating to learning gains and teacher-child interactions.
Early learning educators are integral to the development of the next generation. Science tells us that the most important way young children learn is through a strong bond with their caregivers. When parents have to work, early learning educators help with this important job.
When our early learning educators are stressed, struggling to pay their families’ bills, and worrying about being able to feed their families, they can’t bring everything our children need to school. We need to put our teachers first to put our children first.
The Children’s Movement of Florida is advocating to provide additional compensation for teachers who advance their credentials, including funding for Early Childhood Educator INCENTIVE$ statewide.
Floridians voted for Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) to be free for all four-year-olds in 2002. VPK today enrolls more than 160,000 Florida four year olds. But many programs are still not high quality.
Florida ranks 42nd out of 50 states in pupil funding, but has the highest levels of 4-year-olds enrolled in public Pre-K programs in the nation. Florida allocates roughly half the national average of per-pupil funding to Pre-K programs.
If we want high-quality Pre-K, it takes an investment. And that requires an understanding of how to measure quality.
We know teacher-child interactions are the best indicator of student success and a marker of a high-quality early learning environment. So we believe measuring teacher-child interactions is the most effective way to promote high-quality instruction.
The Children’s Movement of Florida is advocating to adequately fund Florida’s VPK and School Readiness programs so that high-quality early learning is affordable for Florida families.
This kindergarten readiness number reflects the results of an assessment given during the first month of the school year to all kindergarten students attending public school in Florida. This number gives policymakers, superintendents and the public a sense of whether or not we are making a sufficient investment in early learning and family supports before children enter kindergarten.
So what does it mean to be ready for kindergarten? For our five year olds, social-emotional and executive function skills are far more important than mastering letters, numbers and shapes. Children who are “ready” can listen, wait their turn, communicate, and cooperate. They can hold a pencil and focus on a task. They have a foundation for critical thinking, curiosity and an eagerness to learn. And they have reached their early literacy milestones.
The Children’s Movement of Florida advocates for the strengthening of VPK standards that will lead to real quality, value positive teacher-child interactions and social-emotional growth, as well as early literacy development.
We also want to minimize learning loss by ensuring pandemic recovery funds for child care are allocated equitably and targeted to the needs of families across the state.
2021 legislative initiatives relating to early learning:
- HB 3 – General Bill by Rep. Trabulsy (co-sponsors) Reps. Bartleman; Grieco; Harding; Hawkins; Snyder; Tant; Woodson. Home Book Delivery for Elementary Students.
The bill creates the New Worlds Reading Initiative, Florida’s first statewide book distribution program, to provide at-home literacy supports for elementary school students reading below grade level.
- House Bill 419. By Rep. Grall R-Indian River. Early Learning and Early Grade Success. This 180-word bill makes many proposals. You can read a summary of HB-419 from the Association of Early Learning Coalitions by clicking here.
- Senate Bill 1282 by Senator Harrell
For more visit our Partner Content page.
- The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program – The Heckman Equation. Research summary that discusses the social, economic, health, and educational benefits of Early Childhood Programs.
- The State of Preschool 2017 – Florida’s State Preschool Yearbook – National Institute for Early Education Research. Gives a brief overview about the current state of Florida’s VPK program along with its strengths and weaknesses.
- The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects – Brookings Institution. A study that discusses the current state of Early Childhood programs across the county and the importance of high quality programs.
- Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program: An Overview of the Largest State Pre-School Program in the Nation – University of Virginia EdPolicyWorks. Discusses the history of the Florida’s VPK program along with some analysis.
- Graduates of Early Childhood Program Show Greater Educational Gains as Adults – National Institutes of Health. This news release from the NIH talks about how the benefits of an Early Childhood program go beyond giving a child a head start in their elementary school years.
Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by The Children’s Movement of Florida or its affiliate organizations and partners.