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House Panel Looks To Boost Quality Of Early Childhood Education

Florida lawmakers are once again taking a closer look at the state’s early learning centers.

The programs are aimed at children three years old and younger and are voluntary. Low-income working parents can receive state funds to send their kids to early learning centers and lawmakers want to make sure those programs are worth paying for.

House Education chairwoman Marlene O’Toole has been working on the state’s early learning laws for years. This year, her committee is preparing a bill aimed at standardizing licensure rules among the various providers of early childhood education. The bill does not address what children are taught; instead, as O’Toole explains, it targets things like health and safety and qualifications of instructors.

“All providers that participate in school readiness and VPK should be held to a certain level of health and safety standards; personnel should be well-qualified; parents should be given information so they can make informed choices; fiscal impact to the state and provider should be minimized.”

The committee will unveil its proposal next week. Efforts to provide greater oversight of Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten and school readiness programs have been underway for several years now.  Last year, the legislature moved the Office of Early Learning into the Department of Education.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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