Unraveling the red tape is the goal in easing funding for early education.
From the better-late-than-never file: Florida’s premier agency that researches programs, policies and spending is examining how the state’s Office of Early Learning allocates more than $600 million in funds intended to help make low-income children ready for school.
The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability is an arm of the Florida Legislature. OPPAGA, as it’s known, has a solid reputation for credibly evaluating everything from the complex to the inexplicable.
Funding to offset the high costs of child care and pre-kindergarten learning for children from low-income families is a vital function of the state government — ideally with local-government and private-sector support. There are two chief problems, however: Florida received additional federal contributions last year, but overall funding falls far short of the need. The longtime formula, such as it is, for appropriating the funds is, according to the consensus, outdated and unexplained.
The latter problem has been known for years, but efforts to update and explain the distributions have stalled because previous attempts to reallocate the same amount of funding meant some early-learning coalitions in Florida would receive less money while others would get more.
OPPAGA’s task is to unravel the red tape, determine how funds are disbursed and recommend to the Legislature ideas for creating a new, equitable formula. The office’s conclusions won’t come a moment too soon.
The Legislature, for its part, could and should do two things: Increase total funding; create effective partnerships between the state and communities to evaluate and improve child-care and pre-K programs. Some programs do splendid work. Others are ineffective, due to various factors: the fact that many children from low-income households are ill-prepared to learn; a lack of adequately trained staff; a shortage of resources.
Recognition of the importance of early learning has increased exponentially in recent years. Florida’s commitment to adequate funding and high-quality programming is overdue.
Much has been written and stated about the amazing, touching scene this week when thousands of people attended the funeral for a veteran they didn’t even know.
Thanks to advance coverage by media organizations, Pvt. Edward Pearson — who had no known family members upon his death — was given a funeral fit for a general, as a Sarasota Herald-Tribune headline aptly stated.
The ceremony was conducted at the Sarasota National Cemetery’s Patriot Plaza, which was conceived and funded by Sarasota-based The Patterson Foundation. The plaza is more than a slab of concrete that holds folding chairs. It has a beautifully designed pavilion, lovely art and other amenities.
Most important, it is a public space that enables people to honor veterans and contemplate their sacrifices. Sometimes funerals at the cemetery are attended by a lone relative in search of individual solace; at others, like the Pearson ceremony, it is place where community is demonstrated at its finest.
A longer version of this editorial first appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a News Herald sister paper with GateHouse Media.