JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Seven Northeast Florida mayors have joined a chorus of municipal government voices asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to invest in young children in the state budget.
In total, 101 mayors from cities across the state signed a letter sent to the governor's office Thursday, calling for DeSantis not to overlook programs that could benefit early childhood development.
The letter said the first three years are some of the most important in a child's life. It went on to say that if children are insulated from hardship early on, they will be better off down the road:
"Whether this takes the form of support for early learning initiatives, more widespread health care for children under five, or greater access to parenting support resources for all parents, the result is the same: a state that prioritizes children will reap rewards over time with a better workforce and lower crime."
The initiative is spearheaded by The Children's Movement of Florida, a nonprofit organization that advocates for social programs, like early education and health care, for young children.
According to figures provided by the organization, just 1.5 percent of the state's budget is spent on programs that benefit children from birth to age 5, while 325,000 children don't have access to health insurance.
So far, the campaign has the support of seven local mayors, including:
- Ellen Glasser – Atlantic Beach
- Elaine Brown – Neptune Beach
- John Miller – Fernandina Beach
- Mark Bryant – Macclenny
- Daniel Nugent - Starke
- Lauren Poe – Gainesville
- Jordan Marlowe – Newberry
Mayor Glasser, a retired FBI agent and educator, said her experience showed her that getting children, particularly those at risk, enrolled in school at an early age puts them on a path toward success.
"Keeping them interested in learning can actually keep them out of prison," Glasser said. "Early learning is the key ... It is good for kids and is good for the community."