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Southwest Florida Counties Shortchanged in Child-Care Funding

Advocates are calling for equity in state funding for subsidized child care after learning that an outdated funding formula shorted southwest Florida's School Readiness program by tens of millions of dollars over the last decade.

A recent investigation by the state's Auditor General found that the southwestern part of the state had been underfunded by about $10 million annually—money that would have paid for about 2,000 more children to receive subsidized child care through the program this year, according to the Early-Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida and news reports.

The Auditor General's report found that allocations were not based on equity for Florida's 67 counties as required by state law.

While the state did provide about $1 million more this year—for a total of $19 million—to southwest Florida under a revised formula, that represented just about 10 percent of what the area should have received if officials had used a more-equitable, updated formula, the reports said.

Not only are southwest Florida counties up in arms over the shortfall, but those counties that have received more than their share are angered over the possibility of significant reductions to their funding.

State early-learning officials are traveling around the state this month to meet with advocates and community members to figure out the best way to update the allocation formula.

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