In 1999, the Florida Legislature enacted the School Readiness Act (s. 411.01, F.S.), which consolidated each of the early childhood education and childcare programs into one integrated program of school readiness services. This act created the Florida Partnership for School Readiness to coordinate school readiness programs administered by local school readiness coalitions at the county or multi-county level. School Readiness Programs include, but are not limited to the following elements:
- Developmentally appropriate curriculum;
- Appropriate staff-to-children-ratio; and
- Parents making an informed choice of child care providers
The delivery system for School Readiness Programs is comprised of child care providers and of school-based sites operated by public and nonpublic schools. School Readiness Programs are funded through a mixture of state and federal funds.
Changes to Chapter 1002.55-79 of the Florida Statutes (enacted in January 2005) created the mandated Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK). The Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program provides that each child residing in the state who will have attained 4 years of age on or before September 1 of the school year is eligible for free early childhood development and education program. This is an organized program designed to enhance each child’s ability to make age-appropriate progress in the development of language and cognitive capabilities through education in basic skills.
In addition, the governance structure of the school readiness system abolished the Florida Partnership for School Readiness and directed the Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI) to take charge of the program. The Florida Office of Early Learning, under the direction of the Department of Education, adopted the responsibility to govern state-level policy and provide statewide coordination of school readiness programs. 30 Early Learning Coalitions administer the School Readiness Program at the county or regional level. The delivery system for the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) has been administered by Early Learning Coalitions since 2005. VPK is comprised of private Prekindergarten providers and of school based sites operated by public and nonpublic schools. The VPK program is funded fully with state funds.