Gov. Rick Scott visits Jax to promote early learning

Scott highlights increases to early learning funding, kindergarten performance

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott visited an early learning center in Jacksonville on Friday morning to push his education agenda, which includes a $100 per student enrolled in voluntary pre-kindergarten.

"Children who get a quality early learning opportunity are on the right path for success in school and in life," Scott said. "Investing in early learning is an investment in the future of our children, our families and our state. The additional $100 per child budget increase for VPK will help ensure that our VPK students are better prepared from kindergarten."

More than 174,000 children were enrolled in VPK as of January.

Scott meet with Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and several state lawmakers during his visit to All About Kids Preschool Learning Center on North Pearl Street.

On April 4, the city will hold its second education summit at the Jacksonville Public Library's main branch, to take a look at local data and determine what's working and what isn't in terms of the city's effort to prepare young people in the community for college and the workforce.

Citing a recent report, Scott noted that for the fifth consecutive year Florida students who completed the VPK Education Program were better prepared for kindergarten than those who only attended part of the program or did not participate in VPK at all.

The additional funding marks the largest increase for early learning over the past decade. In addition to the $100 per child increase in the base student allocation, Scott included in his budget a one-time $30 million increase in funding for the School Readiness Program to serve additional children and money for teacher scholarships and training.

The School Readiness Program helps low-income families who may need temporary public assistance or are transitioning from public assistance to obtain child care so they can work or attend training and/or education programs. Florida served close to 223,000 children in school readiness in 2013. The budget included one-time authority for $30 million for school readiness to serve an additional 6,500 children.

The House Education Committee held a first reading for House Bill 7069 titled Early Learning and Child Care Regulation on opening day of the 2014 legislative session. It is currently being vetted by the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.