How does Florida’s pre-K program differ from Delaware’s?

The debate over whether programs such as Head Start are beneficial to young children has been going on for a long time. Some believe universal pre-K programs like Head Start give students an advantage over non pre-K educated children academically. Others maintain that either there is no benefit to universal pre-K, or any advantages gained will eventually be gone within a few short years.

CRI’s Jim Hosley wrote an article this week on this very issue. He changes the focus though from whether pre-K can help children and families (it does, at least to an extent), but on HOW those programs should be run and who should be in control. Delaware and Florida are two states with two different views on pre-K. Delaware has chosen to let the state DOE manage everything; the result has been that since 1994 when the new programs started, Delaware has actually gone backwards in enrolled children, because the state spent too much money improperly on the programs for minimal results, and then in recent years was forced to cut spending for pre-K as the economy worsened. Florida opted to turn over pre-K programs to the county level, and block granted spending to the counties to run a pre-K program based on what the county’s needs were. The results from a study of Florida’s pre-K program showed Florida was #1 nationally in pre-K enrollment, but was 35th in spending on pre-K, due to smarter spending decisions and more local control of programs.

Given Florida’s size, making decisions from Tallahassee would have been a burden to many counties hundreds of miles away. Delaware may be much smaller, but why not try this idea? Why not have New Castle County or the city of Wilmington manage their own pre-K program, and be responsible for it? At least it would be their program and parents and teachers could be more readily involved than with educrats in Dover.

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