A group of more than 100 mayors throughout Florida have penned a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, calling on him to elevate childhood health and education as a statewide priority.
“As a former law enforcement officer, I learned that getting kids – and particularly those in at-risk environments – enrolled at school at three and four years old gives them a greater chance for later success. Keeping them interested in learning can actually keep them out of prison,” says Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser, a former FBI Special Agent. “Early learning is the key…It is good for the kids, and it is good for the community.”
Among the mayors signing on include Miami’s Francis Suarez, Orlando’s Buddy Dyer, Tallahassee’s John Dailey, St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, and Miramar’s Wayne Messam. (You can see the entire list here).
“Whether this takes the form of support for early learning initiatives, more widespread health care for children under 5, or greater access to parenting support resources for all parents, the result is the same: a state that prioritizes children will reap rewards over time with a better workforce and lower crime,” the mayors say in the letter. The effort is being organized by the Children’s Movement of Florida, a group formed in 2010 in Miami to educate state leaders about the need to make children a top state priority.
Among the policies that the Children’s Movement of Florida supports: more funding for the Early Steps program, which offers services to babies and toddlers under age three who are at-risk for developmental problems, and more funding for the School Readiness Program, which provides pre-school subsidies for poor children.
More than 31,000 students are on a waiting list for the School Readiness Program, the group says.