The Florida Senate’s proposed budget includes almost $400 million in additional funding for Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK) over the next three years, with a focus on increasing wages for the state’s early learning teachers.
The funding would increase per-student school year funding from $2,486 to $3,294 through an $808 supplemental payment to increase VPK teacher pay to a minimum of $15 per hour. This increase would represent the largest increase in the program’s history.
Florida was one of the first states in the country to offer free prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds regardless of family income. Since the program began in 2005-06, more than 2.5 million children have benefited from VPK, and those children who attend VPK consistently score higher on kindergarten readiness assessments.
Early Learning Coalition of Osceola County CEO, Amanda Kelkenberg and Interim Board Chair, Landon Shephard commented on the Senate’s budget decision. “We thank the Florida Senate and their proposed investments in our youngest learners. This funding would not only ensure our children are better prepared for kindergarten but will also provide critical resources to move early learning educators towards more competitive compensation.” Said Kelkenberg and Shephard.
The proposed funding comes from a combination of state and federal revenues and will help Florida’s approximately 6,100 VPK programs to cover the required minimum wage increase and potentially pay additional wages that recognize the significant training and professionalism that is required of VPK teachers.
The Early Learning Coalition of Osceola County is a nonprofit organization that offers child care financial assistance to families and administers the free Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) to over 3,523 VPK students, in partnership with Community Coordinated Care for Children, Inc. For more information on registering for VPK or other available programs and services, please visit us at www.elcosceola.org.