Throughout September, children’s advocates in Florida will be hosting Milk Parties, a series of rallies across the state to press for tougher standards and more money for the state’s prekindergarten program, among other supports for young children. Though they’re leading with milk and cookies, the news they want to deliver is less happy: The nation’s fourth-largest state is falling behind in caring for the health and education of its youngest citizens.
The campaign’s goal is to get Florida policymakers to put children first as they make budgetary decisions in hard economic times. Its priorities are access to health insurance, screening for special needs, quality prekindergarten, high-quality mentoring for kids, and more support and information for parents.
While Florida has a voluntary prekindergarten program open to all four-year-olds, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) ranked it 34th of 38 states in per-pupil funding and says the program meets only four of its 10 recommended standards for preschool. On the health front, advocates cite research showing Florida ranks near the bottom of states on prenatal care and the numbers of uninsured children.
The movement is led by David Lawrence, retired publisher of the Miami Herald, which published his letter this week making the case that the state is falling short.
But here’s my big question: When will Florida get an orange juice party?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.