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Changes to local VPK programs on the way after Gov. DeSantis signs education reform bills

"Thousands of Florida families rely on our voluntary Pre-K system to prepare their children to be ready for kindergarten.“

DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. — This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed two bills aiming to improve early education in state.

He believes they will help increase Florida’s kindergarten readiness rate, which was only 53% in 2019, according to an legislative staff analysis.

“We need to do better than that," DeSantis explained. "Thousands of Florida families rely on our voluntary Pre-K system to prepare their children to be ready for kindergarten.“

HB 419 focuses on accountability for the state's early learning programs and student success. HB 7011 creates a statewide monitoring program to keep track of how students progress in their academic career from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, so that schools can identify students who are not performing on grade level for reading and mathematics.

“It’s exciting news," Denise Marzullo, Early Learning Coalition of Duval CEO and president said. “We hope that that is a great step in in ensuring that our volunteer pre-kindergarten programs are of high quality, it also helps with the calculation of the readiness rates.“ 

Marzullo believes the new formula will give a more accurate readiness calculation, simply because of changes like the assessment will be taken at the end of pre-kindergarten instead of at the start of kindergarten.

Both bills will become law effective Jul. 1. Marzullo said there will be some immediate improvements to local voluntary pre-kindergarten programs.

“Now, as a coalition, we're going to be providing a lot of coaching, technical support, professional development for the VPK teachers," she explained. "So, I would see the quality of instruction and VPK programs increasing starting right away, which is exciting."

She predicts there will be a dramatic increase to the kindergarten readiness rate by this time next year.

Marzullo says VPK enrollment is still low due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so some childcare centers are offering summer programs.

If you would like to sign your children up ahead of the next school year, you can enroll on ELC of Duval's website.