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Gov. Rick Scott delays implementation of early learning funding formula

Responding to concerns expressed by the state's early learning coalitions, Gov. Rick Scott said today that he would not move forward with changing how it allocates tax dollars to these agencies next year.

The Florida Association of Early Learning Coalition took its concerns about the funding formula public this week, saying the state came up with a new way to allocate school readiness dollars to the 31 regional coalitions without their input, the News Service of Florida reported. 

From the News Service's report:

In late June, just before the new budget year began, the coalitions were notified of changes in their funding. One of the biggest losers was the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, which lost $3.7 million, effective five days later – leaving 11,000 children waiting for services.

The Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend lost nearly $700,000, or 4.5 percent of its budget, also with less than a week to prepare. Executive director Lauren Faison saved the children's places but had to cut staff support for the providers. 

...Some areas, like Broward and Southwest Florida, got more money under the new formula, not less. But the state is planning to phase in five more years' worth of cuts – and in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, that's another $22.3 million lost.

"Honestly, this is so difficult," said Miami-Dade coalition director Evelio Torres. "It's much more difficult than just saying we're going to take money from some and give it to others. There's a whole domino effect that takes place, and we really don't want to see anyone else going through that."

Now all the coalitions have joined in asking the state to freeze the cuts and review the formula. 

Scott has done just that.

He sent a letter today to Roseann Fricks, Chairwoman of the Association of Early Leaning Coalitions, saying that the same funding formula in place this year would be used next year. Meanwhile, he will establish a working group of stakeholders to study the issue and refine the funding formula ahead of the 2014-2015 budget talks.

Fricks said the early learning coalitions are pleased by Scott's response.

"The governor has taken our recommendation seriously," she said. "We appreciate the governor's support of early learning and the caolition because we are here to do the best that we can for all of Florida's children."

Download Scott letter on early learning funding

Download Marion County ELC response