I have been a preschool director for 10 years here in LaBelle. Not much has changed in the Voluntary Pre- Kindergarten Program that has been governed by the state. On May 4, 2021, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 419 into effect. This bill will make improvements to state accountability for the early learning programs. I believe there will be pros and cons to this Bill as there are with any that get passed.
A pro for this bill will be a new VPK accountability system based on performance metrics that include student outcomes, learning gains, and observations of child-teacher interactions. The only performance metric until this year still had not changed in the 10 years that I have been a director. The test that is administered does not really help in showing gains that children may make throughout their VPK year. Hopefully this bill will allow changes to be made in the way the children are accessed throughout the year.
A con for this bill will be the governing of private providers as well as public schools. In my time as a director in a private provider preschool, it has been extremely hard to compete with the public schools. Finding employees and staff for our facility with the equivalent education as a certified teacher is nearly impossible. Now with more governing on private provider teachers and staff this may become even more difficult as we cannot compete with the salary and wages that the state is paying.
I understand the need for improving early learning and having a better system to keep track of the progress of the students. This will help in so many ways to get the help that low performing students may need. It will be great for the parents to have more access of the progress that their child is making throughout their VPK year and on into their early elementary years.
We have had a successful VPK program here in LaBelle since 2011. We see the importance of letting children be children and not be pushed to grow up too fast. Our small class size has given us the benefits of added one on one time and the ability to catch issues in learning early.
It is my hope that this bill will not affect the many private providers in our area to discontinue the VPK program. The pressures of our education system continue to be pushed on to our younger children at an increasing rate. May we all see the importance of investing in our young people.