Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, it is crunch time!

The conference committee on Senate Bill 1974 and House Bills  5103 and 7119 will soon be appointed and should begin deliberations next week. As of today, we have lost almost 50% of school age children of low income “working families” currently enrolled in the school readiness program. Of the 31,096 school age children currently served through the school readiness program, almost 15,000 (14,898) will lose their eligibility upon their redetermination date. The sole reason is they do not have a sibling under the age of eligibility for kindergarten. 

There is precious little time to get this turned around. Below is a one page talking point sheet. Once we know who the conference committee members are, we will notify post information. Please make sure these legislators hear (and hear quickly) from you, whether by e-mail or phone call. 

Action Needed! At this time, the Florida Afterschool Network is requesting that you craft your own message utilizing the attachment. It is critical that legislators hear from you directly on this important issue that will negatively impact so many children and families throughout Florida.  Just so you are aware, there are a lot of folks working hard to turn this around. Besides myself and Joe Davis, FAN Board members Claudia Davant, Ted Granger, Phyllis Kalifeh, Mike Lannon, and Steve Wilkerson have all been significantly involved. Danny Lyons (also a FAN Board member) Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs has had Club presidents calling from all over the state. The same goes for Todd Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the Florida YMCA’s. The YMCA directors have been making similar calls. Brittany Birken, President and CEO of the Children’s Services Councils, and their team have been walking the capital since the beginning of session. Additionally, Art O’Hara President of the R’Club in St. Pete (and a FAN Champion), Suzette Harvey, Executive  Director of PrimeTime (another FAN Champion) in West Palm Beach, and Ellen McKinley, President of the Kids CDE Alliance, and Roy Miller, and Linda Alexionok of the Children’s Campaign, have all contributed their time and talents to working this issue.

My point in sharing this list of folks is to let you know that we have and will continue to work very hard to retain the eligibility of all school age kids of working families and in order for us to ultimately be successful, we need your personal involvement.  Please take a few moments to read the fact sheets and send a message that will help make a difference. 

Please contact Joe Davis or me if you have any questions about your approach and message.

Larry Pintacuda
Chief Executive Officer
Florida Afterschool Network

Legislative Fact Sheet

Current Statutory Language in the School Readiness Act, Section 411.0102, provides for school age children ages 5 through 12, of low income working parents to participate in the school readiness program. Both Senate Bill 1974 and House Bill 5103  only provide  for “siblings” of children younger than the age for kindergarten enrolled in the school readiness program to participate. Statewide, 15,000 school age children of low income working families will no longer be eligible for services.

Why is quality afterschool important?  What does the research tell us?

Attendance in quality afterschool programs has been linked to higher test scores, greater gains in scores, and upward shifts in proficiency levels on standardized test scores.
·        The Legislative Office of Program Policy Analysis and Governmental Accountability (OPPAGA) found that elementary and middle school participants in the Boys and Girls Clubs performed better on the FCAT in reading (in elementary school) and math at grade level versus a comparison group of students who were not in quality afterschool programs.

·        Florida Tax Watch study of Boys and Girls Clubs: found participating students to have gains on both reading and math standardized test scores.

·        University of Florida evaluation of Floridas 21st Century Community Learning Centers:
found that students participating at a minimum of 12 hours per week consistently have higher math and reading scores on standardized tests.
Former Florida State Health Officer, Dr. Will Blechman states “Childhood and education during childhood are ongoing processes during which the brain continues its development building upon the foundation created during those early years. It makes no sense to focus only on a limited age group, for example, zero to five , then ignore six to ten or vice versa. If the foundation is flawed, that which follows is less likely to be optimally functional. At the same time, even with a good foundation, if following experiences of the child are inadequate or in appropriate for learning, the effect on the brain will also be less than desired.”

Both the Senate and House Bills’ eligibility criteria need to be amended to provide for school age children up through 12 years of age of low income working families to retain their eligibility in the school readiness program.

Recommended language – Add a new subparagraph in the eligibility priorities to read:

Priority shall be given next to a child who is younger than 13 years of age who is eligible for any federal subsidized child care program.

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