Archive | February, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, it is crunch time!

26 Feb

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 Florida’s 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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We Are Making Some Progress, But There Is Still Much More To Do!

17 Feb

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.

SB 1974 requires that an early learning coalition may not dis-enroll children on June 30, 2012.
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.

Who Will Take Care of Florida’s Young Children after the Bell Rings?

9 Feb

There is currently a committee bill before the Florida House of Representatives (School Readiness Act, Section 411.0102) that threatens the well-being of tens-of-thousands low-income children, reduces the ability of parents to work extended hours, and potentially increases the burden on other state and federal subsidies. Among other things, the bill would eliminate subsidized afterschool services for over 32,000 low-income children ages 6, 7, and 8. These children would be unenrolled from their afterschool programs with few, if any, safe alternatives – a scenario with devastating impacts on our children’s education, our educational system, and our economy.

Nearly 25 percent of Florida’s K-12 youth are already responsible for taking care of themselves after school, and this bill could significantly increase that number. Children left alone afterschool spend an average of 15 hours per week unsupervised with little personal and academic enrichment. Research indicates these children are more likely to commit crimes, become involved with gangs, experiment with drugs and alcohol, and drop out of school. Fortunately, research also shows that participation in quality afterschool programs protects children and communities from such negative outcomes. Indeed, compared to non-participants, students in structured afterschool programs have higher standardized math and reading assessment scores, higher self-esteem and self-efficacy, higher graduation rates, and an increased likelihood to become productive citizens.

Not only will the proposed School Readiness Act negatively impact the quality of life for Florida’s children, but reduced productivity and employability of the affected parents will have staggering economic impacts on families, businesses, and communities. For instance, research has shown that parents whose children are not in afterschool programs missed an average of eight days of work per year, as compared to three days per year for parents whose children are in afterschool programs. Across Florida families impacted by the proposed bill, this equates to the potential loss of 1.3 million work hours. Another study found parental concern about children’s safety during afterschool hours increases worker stress, increases counter productivity, and can cost businesses over $300 billion annually in lost job productivity.

If the School Readiness Act should pass, several questions would remain unanswered. How do legislators expect 6, 7, and 8-year-olds to take care of themselves afterschool? How will Florida businesses recover billions in losses secondary to parental worry, lost productivity, and higher absenteeism? What is the actual financial impact to taxpayers and state agencies, particularly with the likelihood of increased reports to the Abuse Hot Line due to children being left unsupervised afterschool? Ultimately, it seems the significant and detrimental human and financial costs in the aftermath of the proposed School Readiness Act will far outweigh any short-term benefits of tightening our state budget.

Certainly, we understand the Florida Legislature has a limited budget and that cuts to programs will be unavoidable. However, funding for afterschool services for young children must not be eliminated for the sake of our children, their families, our communities, our economy and the future of our state.

– Larry Pintacuda, Chief Executive Officer, Florida Afterschool Network (myFAN.org)

9-Year-Old Voices Her Thoughts on Bill

9 Feb

The following is the transcript of a letter written by a nine-year-old Florida girl in response to School Readiness Act, Section 41.0102 that is before the Florida House of Representatives in 2012. The bill threatens the well-being of tens-of-thousands low-income children, reduces the ability of parents to work extended hours, and potentially increases the burden on other state and federal subsidies.

We hope you will take the time to reach out to your elected officials and express your concerns, much like this little girl did.

February 3, 2012

To the members of the Business and Consumer Affairs House Committee:

Hello. My name is Gabriela Reyes. I am a 9 year old. I am in the after school program at R.C.M.A Wimauma Academy Charter School. I love attending the program because they help me with my homework and I have time to read a lot. Last year my grades went up and I learned to love math. My mom and dad work at a farm where they pick strawberries. Without the afterschool school program either my mom or dad would have to quit their job. We wouldn’t have money for food or clothes for me, my brother or my sister.

I am asking on behalf of my education future and my friends who are also in the school readiness program to include school age children in the School Readiness House Bill.

Sincerely, Gabriela Reyes