Florida Delays Implementation of Early-Learning Funding Formula
Score one for Florida's early-learning coalitions, which have won a battle over how the state allocates funding to those regional agencies.
The 31 regional coalitions had protested a new funding formula implemented in July that accounted for population shifts in the state, and resulted in huge cuts for some coalitions and more money for others.
Responding to the uproar, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that he has decided to halt the phase-in of the formula while the state gathers input from stakeholders on how school readiness funds should be allocated equitably. The same formula will be used for next year's budget while a task force works on refining the formula for the following fiscal year.
"I recognize the importance of the current funding formula for communities in addressing the needs of early learning and school readiness for children. I also understand that this is an investment not only in Florida's Early-Learning Coalitions, but also to the businesses, communities and most importantly the families that participate in this program," Scott said in a letter to Roseann Fricks, chairwoman of the Association of Early-Learning Coalitions.
The decision was good news for some of the larger coalitions, which had lost millions of dollars under the new formula and could not serve as many children in their school readiness programs. More cuts were planned over the next five years. The coalition programs provide subsidized child care for children who are too young to attend the state's voluntary prekindergarten programs.
According to news reports, the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties lost $3.7 million last summer, meaning that it had to cut services to 11,000 children. Meanwhile, southwest Florida had received more funding to help make up for years of underfunding under the old, outdated formula.
While the state did provide about $1 million more this year—for a total of $19 million—to southwest Florida under a revised formula, advocates argued that the money represented just about 10 percent of what the area should have received if officials had used a more-equitable formula.