We have just been gotten a copy of the Amendment Package HB 7119. In the amendments, the House proposes similar to Senate Bill 1974 to Continue to serve siblings of children ages birth 0-5 enrolled in the school readiness program. If the amendment package passes, we will be in the same posture in both the House and Senate.
We have made some progress getting the siblings reinstated, but we still have much work to do to restore the eligibility of all afterschool kids ages 6 through 12 of low income working families. Below is background on the bill, and FAN’s opinions and recommendations. We ask that you continue to reach out to your elected officials to advocate for the children that need these programs.
Senate Bill 1974 deals with school readiness legislation and the eligibility status of school age children. This bill retains the eligibility status for:
· families where there is an adult receiving temporary cash assistance;
· children at risk of abuse or neglect; and
· working poor families, who are siblings of a child enrolled in a school readiness program.
The legislation seems to be moving in the right direction regarding the impact on afterschool services and the Florida Afterschool Network (FAN) appreciates the efforts of the Senate.
The State Office of Early Learning (OEL) advises there were approximately 31,096 school age children served through the school readiness program in December 2011. Of this number, 16,198 afterschool children are siblings. These children would maintain their eligibility in the current language.
However, this means that 14,898 school age children up through 12 years of age who do not have siblings currently enrolled in the school readiness program, will no longer be eligible for services.
FAN urges the Senate to take the final step, and reinstate eligibility for all school age children who meet the current statutory requirements.
Proposed Language in Senate Bill 1974:
(6) PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY AND ENROLLMENT.
Each early learning coalition shall give priority for participation in the school readiness program as follows:
a) Priority shall be given first to a child from birth through 12 years of age from a family in which there is an adult receiving temporary cash assistance who is the subject of federal work requirements.
b) Priority shall be given next to an at-risk child age birth through 12 years of age.
c) Priority shall be given next to a child from birth to the beginning of the school year for which
the child is eligible for admission to kindergarten in a public school under s. 1003.21(1)(a)2.
from a working family that is economically disadvantaged. However, the child ceases to be
eligible if his or her family income exceeds 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In
priority shall be given to a child with special needs who is 3 – 5 years of age, determined to
be eligible as a special needs student, and who has an individual education plan (IEP).
d) Priority shall be given next to a child who is younger than 13 years of age and who is a sibling of a child enrolled in the school readiness program under paragraph (c).
e) Notwithstanding paragraphs (a-d), priority shall be given last to a child who otherwise meets the eligibility criteria in subparagraph 3. but who is also enrolled concurrently in the federal Head Start Program or Voluntary Pre-K program.
The coalitions are required to wait until a child’s eligibility re-determination date.
FAN proposes the legislature maintain the statutory eligibility of school age children 6 through 12 years of age in the school readiness program.
Recommended language – Amend subparagraph (d) to read:
(d) 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.
FAN believes that if state, or federal dollars are used for school age services, those services must be quality in nature. FAN developed the first statewide afterschool standards for Florida. Though implementation of the standards are voluntary, the FAN Florida Standards for Quality Afterschool Programs have been endorsed by the:
· The Association of Early learning Coalitions
· The Children’s Forum
· The Children’s Services Councils of Florida
· The Department of Children and Families
· The Florida Afterschool Alliance
· The Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs
· Florida’s Office of Early learning
· Hillsborough County Public Schools
· Roundtable of St. Lucie County
· United Ways of Florida
· YMCA’s of Florida
FAN recommends the Senate consider a provision requiring afterschool programs participating in the School Readiness program, at a minimum, meet the Florida Standards for Quality Afterschool Programs. The Standards can be accessed at http://myfan.org/downloads/FAN%20Brochure.