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Florida bill that would revise the state’s pre-kindergarten program advances

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(The Center Square) — Florida lawmakers have advanced a bill this week that would allow young students and those who teach them the tools to be successful.

State Rep. John Snyder, R-Palm City, sponsors House Bill 1353. It would revise Florida’s laws on the state’s pre-kindergarten programs known as early learning coalitions and other specified early learning programs.

While introducing his bill to the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, bill sponsor Snyder said that the bill would better support children, providers and early learning coalitions.

Snyder stated that Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program instructors — who have completed a 60-hour micro literacy credential or have scored a 3 or higher on the instructional support domain of the program assessment — would be allowed to teach the summer VPK program.

The bill also prohibits students from using electronic devices in these programs as instructional tools. At the same time, parents would be required to be notified if a student is falling behind in their learning.

“[The bill] prohibits the use of one child to one device for instruction in the VPK setting, and it also requires a VPK provider to notify each parent of a VPK student if they have not met the minimum performance metrics,” Snyder said.

When the bill was originally drafted, Snyder stated that the bill had made provisions to authorize early learning coalitions to increase the administrative percentage fee that they take from the providers, an increase from 4% to 5%. However, the fiscal impact was not able to be included in this year’s fiscal budget and was amended out of the bill.

A second amendment removed another program, the VPK summer-bridge program. Snyder stated that the program was removed because it is included in HB 5001, the state’s General Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2024-25.

Snyder added that the bill would add tools needed to capture those students who may struggle with their early learning and pointed out that one only has to look at literacy rates to know how important this is for young students.

“The data does show that the sooner we can get the students who are having those learning gain issues, the better it is,” Snyder said. “So there’s no greater tool in my opinion, than to make sure our earliest learners are set up for success as they enter kindergarten.”

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