Florida Leaders Urge Strengthening Early Childhood Education Workforce
Our new research report says child care and preschool suffer from worker shortage, insufficient training and development, and low wages, which undermine Florida’s potential
A new report shows Florida’s early childhood care and education system struggles to find, train and retain workers, keeping many parts of the state short of quality child care. Insufficient compensation and professional development are among the factors keeping the state’s Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program from improving, leaving the state meeting just two of 10 quality benchmarks. As a result of these problems, only about half of entering Florida kindergartners are demonstrating readiness to succeed in school.
The report, Early Childhood Educators Set Florida Kids on the Path to Success, was released on March 22 at an event in the state capitol. At the event, leaders from the law enforcement, business, and military communities urged more robust public investments in Florida’s early childhood workforce.
“We can’t strengthen our child care system and our preschools without qualified staff. We don’t have enough child care staff because, often, people who work there can make more working at a retail store or a fast food restaurant, said Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil. “If we want kids to thrive, we absolutely must have programs that are proven by evidence to be effective.” Sheriff McNeil is a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
“The business community is focused on this child care challenge and willing to do its part, but we can’t do it without a strong partnership with government and families,“ said ReadyNation member and Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro.
Donald P. Quinn, a retired Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, is a member of Mission: Readiness. Today, 77 percent of young Americans don’t qualify to serve in the armed forces because of academics, crime, substance abuse or health issues such as obesity.
“If young people aren’t qualified to be in the military, what else aren’t they qualified to do?,” Admiral Quinn asked. “Regardless of what sector we’re talking about, educational deficits, health issues, and a history of crime or drug use will make it much more difficult for these young people to succeed.”
In a related op-ed published in the Tampa Bay Times on March 16, Mission: Readiness member Gregg Sturdevant, a retired Marine Corp Major General, wrote “improving early care and education is the right thing to do competitively… It is in our national self-interest to make early care and education investments.”
Watch a recording of the event below:
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