For years, Florida was challenged with providing superior early childhood education to help children be prepared for kindergarten.
As a result of this challenge, in 1999, the Legislature enacted the School Readiness Act (s. 411.01, F.S.), which consolidated each of the early childhood education and childcare programs across the state into one integrated program of school readiness services. Specifically, the act created the Florida Partnership for School Readiness to coordinate school readiness programs administered by local school readiness coalitions at the county or multi-county level. School readiness programs were charged with (but not limited to) overseeing adherence to the following:
Implementation of a developmentally-appropriate curriculum;
Assurance of appropriate staff-to-children ratio; and
Providing parents with information to assist them in the process of choosing a high-quality early learning program within one of the Coalition's contracted child care providers.
The Palm Beach County School Readiness Coalition was incorporated in 1999 and submitted its School Readiness Plan in 2000. In 2005, the Legislature changed the School Readiness Coalition to the Early Learning Coalition and added the administration of the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program as a function of the Coalition.
VPK is a statewide kindergarten-preparatory program that is free to Florida residents. The VPK program was designed to enhance each child’s ability to make age-appropriate progress in the development of language and cognitive capabilities through education in basic skills.
Today, in Palm Beach County, and across the state, the delivery system for School Readiness program is comprised of child care providers, family child care homes, faith-based providers, as well as School District sites operated by the School District of Palm Beach County. School Readiness programs are funded through a mixture of state and federal funds, as outlined and mandated in Chapter 1002.83, Florida Statutes.