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Early Education in Bull's-Eye in Florida and Missouri

Early education, already embattled in many states because of the recession, has been the target of political fights in Missouri and Florida in recent weeks.

In Missouri, a fight between lawmakers and state education leaders threatens nearly $12 million in funding for programs serving 4,000 preschoolers, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story.

The feud centers on a state education official who has become the public face of efforts to secure a grant from the federal Race to the Top Learning Challenge Fund.
State school officials applied for the grant, which Missouri didn't end up receiving, even though key lawmakers told them not to.

The lawmakers are against the idea of setting up a rating system for child care providers, which is one of the requirements for receiving the federal funding. In fact, lawmakers had shot down the idea of a rating system for four consecutive years.

In retaliation for the application, the state Senate cut funding for the Missouri Preschool Project and is now holding the nearly $12 million hostage to force state officials to fire an assistance education commissioner in the state department of education.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott is attempting to fix problems with the state's early-learning system without changing state law, after vetoing compromise legislation last week that roiled lawmakers, according to a report by the Financial News & Daily Record.

Instead, Scott has directed state early learning officials to implement some of the bill's provisions, including "strengthening governance of the state's early learning providers, adopting certain types of assessments for whether children are learning, and tightening oversight of the state's 31 early learning coalitions," according to the Daily Record.

Early-learning proponents say more funding is needed, in addition to the programmatic reforms, and point out that Scott last week signed an education budget that increases funding for K-12 schools by $1 billion.

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