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Flat funding frustrates preschool advocates

April 4, 2016
AccessEconomics and FinanceGovernance and AccountabilityQuality and CurriculumState & LocalWorkforce
Leslie Postal
Orlando Sentinel

Florida’s $82.3 billion budget for 2016 is its largest ever, but the preschoolers in Kathryn Sutton’s class, marveling at the seedlings sprouting in their tiny garden, will miss out on that spending boost. For the third year in a row, the per-student funding for the Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program will remain flat — and will be less than it was a decade ago when it was brand new. The stagnant pre-K budget approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott last month has frustrated early-childhood advocates and educators, including those at Trinity Lutheran School in downtown Orlando, where Sutton teaches. They say state leaders have failed to meet the demands of Florida citizens who in 2002 voted in a “high quality” state pre-K. Free to the state’s 4-year-olds, it began in the 2005.