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2011 Florida Statutes

F.S. 411.01
411.01 School readiness programs; early learning coalitions.
(1) SHORT TITLE.This section may be cited as the “School Readiness Act.”
(2) LEGISLATIVE INTENT.
(a) The Legislature recognizes that school readiness programs increase children’s chances of achieving future educational success and becoming productive members of society. It is the intent of the Legislature that the programs be developmentally appropriate, research-based, involve the parent as a child’s first teacher, serve as preventive measures for children at risk of future school failure, enhance the educational readiness of eligible children, and support family education. Each school readiness program shall provide the elements necessary to prepare at-risk children for school, including health screening and referral and an appropriate educational program.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that school readiness programs be operated on a full-day, year-round basis to the maximum extent possible to enable parents to work and become financially self-sufficient.
(c) It is the intent of the Legislature that school readiness programs not exist as isolated programs, but build upon existing services and work in cooperation with other programs for young children, and that school readiness programs be coordinated to achieve full effectiveness.
(d) It is the intent of the Legislature that the administrative staff for school readiness programs be kept to the minimum necessary to administer the duties of the Office of Early Learning and early learning coalitions. The Office of Early Learning shall adopt system support services at the state level to build a comprehensive early learning system. Each early learning coalition shall implement and maintain direct enhancement services at the local level, as approved in its school readiness plan by the Office of Early Learning, and ensure access to such services in all 67 counties.
(e) It is the intent of the Legislature that the school readiness program coordinate and operate in conjunction with the district school systems. However, it is also the intent of the Legislature that the school readiness program not be construed as part of the system of free public schools but rather as a separate program for children under the age of kindergarten eligibility, funded separately from the system of free public schools, utilizing a mandatory sliding fee scale, and providing an integrated and seamless system of school readiness services for the state’s birth-to-kindergarten population.
(f) It is the intent of the Legislature that school readiness services be an integrated and seamless program of services with a developmentally appropriate education component for the state’s eligible birth-to-kindergarten population described in subsection (6) and not be construed as part of the seamless K-20 education system.
(3) PARENTAL PARTICIPATION IN SCHOOL READINESS PROGRAMS.This section does not:
(a) Relieve parents and guardians of their own obligations to prepare their children for school; or
(b) Create any obligation to provide publicly funded school readiness programs or services beyond those authorized by the Legislature.
(4) OFFICE OF EARLY LEARNING OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.
(a) The Office of Early Learning shall administer school readiness programs at the state level and shall coordinate with the early learning coalitions in providing school readiness services on a full-day, full-year, full-choice basis to the extent possible in order to enable parents to work and be financially self-sufficient.
(b) The Office of Early Learning shall:
1. Coordinate the birth-to-kindergarten services for children who are eligible under subsection (6) and the programmatic, administrative, and fiscal standards under this section for all public providers of school readiness programs.
2. Focus on improving the educational quality of all program providers participating in publicly funded school readiness programs.
3. Provide comprehensive services to the state’s birth-to-5 population, which shall ensure the preservation of parental choice by permitting parents to choose from a variety of child care categories, including: center-based child care; group home child care; family child care; and in-home child care. Care and curriculum by a sectarian provider may not be limited or excluded in any of these categories.
(c) The Governor shall designate the Office of Early Learning as the lead agency for administration of the federal Child Care and Development Fund, 45 C.F.R. parts 98 and 99, and the office shall comply with the lead agency responsibilities under federal law.
(d) The Office of Early Learning shall:
1. Be responsible for the prudent use of all public and private funds in accordance with all legal and contractual requirements.
2. Provide final approval and every 2 years review early learning coalitions and school readiness plans.
3. Establish a unified approach to the state’s efforts toward enhancement of school readiness. In support of this effort, the Office of Early Learning shall adopt specific system support services that address the state’s school readiness programs. An early learning coalition shall amend its school readiness plan to conform to the specific system support services adopted by the Office of Early Learning. System support services shall include, but are not limited to:
a. Child care resource and referral services;
b. Warm-Line services;
c. Eligibility determinations;
d. Child performance standards;
e. Child screening and assessment;
f. Developmentally appropriate curricula;
g. Health and safety requirements;
h. Statewide data system requirements; and
i. Rating and improvement systems.
4. Safeguard the effective use of federal, state, local, and private resources to achieve the highest possible level of school readiness for the children in this state.
5. Adopt a rule establishing criteria for the expenditure of funds designated for the purpose of funding activities to improve the quality of child care within the state in accordance with s. 658G of the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant Act.
6. Provide technical assistance to early learning coalitions in a manner determined by the Office of Early Learning based upon information obtained by the office from various sources, including, but not limited to, public input, government reports, private interest group reports, office monitoring visits, and coalition requests for service.
7. In cooperation with the early learning coalitions, coordinate with the Child Care Services Program Office of the Department of Children and Family Services to minimize duplicating interagency activities, health and safety monitoring, and acquiring and composing data pertaining to child care training and credentialing.
8. Develop and adopt performance standards and outcome measures for school readiness programs. The performance standards must address the age-appropriate progress of children in the development of school readiness skills. The performance standards for children from birth to 5 years of age in school readiness programs must be integrated with the performance standards adopted by the Department of Education for children in the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program under s. 1002.67.
9. Adopt a standard contract that must be used by the coalitions when contracting with school readiness providers.
(e) The Office of Early Learning may adopt rules under ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 to administer the provisions of law conferring duties upon the office, including, but not limited to, rules governing the administration of system support services of school readiness programs, the collection of data, the approval of early learning coalitions and school readiness plans, the provision of a method whereby an early learning coalition may serve two or more counties, the award of incentives to early learning coalitions, child performance standards, child outcome measures, the issuance of waivers, and the implementation of the state’s Child Care and Development Fund Plan as approved by the federal Administration for Children and Families.
(f) The Office of Early Learning shall have all powers necessary to administer this section, including, but not limited to, the power to receive and accept grants, loans, or advances of funds from any public or private agency and to receive and accept from any source contributions of money, property, labor, or any other thing of value, to be held, used, and applied for purposes of this section.
(g) Except as provided by law, the Office of Early Learning may not impose requirements on a child care or early childhood education provider that does not deliver services under the school readiness programs or receive state or federal funds under this section.
(h) The Office of Early Learning shall have a budget for school readiness programs, which shall be financed through an annual appropriation made for purposes of this section in the General Appropriations Act.
(i) The Office of Early Learning shall coordinate the efforts toward school readiness in this state and provide independent policy analyses, data analyses, and recommendations to the Governor, the State Board of Education, and the Legislature.
(j) The Office of Early Learning shall require that school readiness programs, at a minimum, enhance the age-appropriate progress of each child in attaining the performance standards adopted under subparagraph (d)8. and in the development of the following school readiness skills:
1. Compliance with rules, limitations, and routines.
2. Ability to perform tasks.
3. Interactions with adults.
4. Interactions with peers.
5. Ability to cope with challenges.
6. Self-help skills.
7. Ability to express the child’s needs.
8. Verbal communication skills.
9. Problem-solving skills.
10. Following of verbal directions.
11. Demonstration of curiosity, persistence, and exploratory behavior.
12. Interest in books and other printed materials.
13. Paying attention to stories.
14. Participation in art and music activities.
15. Ability to identify colors, geometric shapes, letters of the alphabet, numbers, and spatial and temporal relationships.

Within 30 days after enrollment in the school readiness program, the early learning coalition must ensure that the program provider obtains information regarding the child’s immunizations, physical development, and other health requirements as necessary, including appropriate vision and hearing screening and examinations. For a program provider licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services, the provider’s compliance with s. 402.305(9), as verified pursuant to s. 402.311, shall satisfy this requirement.

(k) The Office of Early Learning shall conduct studies and planning activities related to the overall improvement and effectiveness of the outcome measures adopted by the office for school readiness programs and the specific system support services to address the state’s school readiness programs adopted by the Office of Early Learning in accordance with subparagraph (d)3.
(l) The Office of Early Learning shall monitor and evaluate the performance of each early learning coalition in administering the school readiness program, implementing the coalition’s school readiness plan, and administering the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program. These monitoring and performance evaluations must include, at a minimum, onsite monitoring of each coalition’s finances, management, operations, and programs.
(m) The Office of Early Learning shall submit an annual report of its activities conducted under this section to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the minority leaders of both houses of the Legislature. In addition, the Office of Early Learning’s reports and recommendations shall be made available to the Florida Early Learning Advisory Council and other appropriate state agencies and entities. The annual report must provide an analysis of school readiness activities across the state, including the number of children who were served in the programs.
(n) The Office of Early Learning shall work with the early learning coalitions to ensure availability of training and support for parental involvement in children’s early education and to provide family literacy activities and services.
(5) CREATION OF EARLY LEARNING COALITIONS.
(a) Early learning coalitions.
1. Each early learning coalition shall maintain direct enhancement services at the local level and ensure access to such services in all 67 counties.
2. The Office of Early Learning shall establish the minimum number of children to be served by each early learning coalition through the coalition’s school readiness program. The Office of Early Learning may only approve school readiness plans in accordance with this minimum number. The minimum number must be uniform for every early learning coalition and must:
a. Permit 31 or fewer coalitions to be established; and
b. Require each coalition to serve at least 2,000 children based upon the average number of all children served per month through the coalition’s school readiness program during the previous 12 months.
3. If an early learning coalition would serve fewer children than the minimum number established under subparagraph 2., the coalition must merge with another county to form a multicounty coalition. The Office of Early Learning shall adopt procedures for merging early learning coalitions, including procedures for the consolidation of merging coalitions, and for the early termination of the terms of coalition members which are necessary to accomplish the mergers. However, the Office of Early Learning shall grant a waiver to an early learning coalition to serve fewer children than the minimum number established under subparagraph 2., if:
a. The Office of Early Learning has determined during the most recent review of the coalition’s school readiness plan, or through monitoring and performance evaluations conducted under paragraph (4)(l), that the coalition has substantially implemented its plan;
b. The coalition demonstrates to the Office of Early Learning the coalition’s ability to effectively and efficiently implement the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program; and
c. The coalition demonstrates to the Office of Early Learning that the coalition can perform its duties in accordance with law.

If an early learning coalition fails or refuses to merge as required by this subparagraph, the Office of Early Learning may dissolve the coalition and temporarily contract with a qualified entity to continue school readiness and prekindergarten services in the coalition’s county or multicounty region until the office reestablishes the coalition and a new school readiness plan is approved by the office.

4. Each early learning coalition shall be composed of at least 15 members but not more than 30 members. The Office of Early Learning shall adopt standards establishing within this range the minimum and maximum number of members that may be appointed to an early learning coalition and procedures for identifying which members have voting privileges under subparagraph 6. These standards must include variations for a coalition serving a multicounty region. Each early learning coalition must comply with these standards.
5. The Governor shall appoint the chair and two other members of each early learning coalition, who must each meet the same qualifications as private sector business members appointed by the coalition under subparagraph 7.
6. Each early learning coalition must include the following member positions; however, in a multicounty coalition, each ex officio member position may be filled by multiple nonvoting members but no more than one voting member shall be seated per member position. If an early learning coalition has more than one member representing the same entity, only one of such members may serve as a voting member:
a. A Department of Children and Family Services circuit administrator or his or her designee who is authorized to make decisions on behalf of the department.
b. A district superintendent of schools or his or her designee who is authorized to make decisions on behalf of the district.
c. A regional workforce board executive director or his or her designee.
d. A county health department director or his or her designee.
e. A children’s services council or juvenile welfare board chair or executive director, if applicable.
f. An agency head of a local licensing agency as defined in s. 402.302, where applicable.
g. A president of a community college or his or her designee.
h. One member appointed by a board of county commissioners or the governing board of a municipality.
i. A central agency administrator, where applicable.
j. A Head Start director.
k. A representative of private for-profit child care providers, including private for-profit family day care homes.
l. A representative of faith-based child care providers.
m. A representative of programs for children with disabilities under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
7. Including the members appointed by the Governor under subparagraph 5., more than one-third of the members of each early learning coalition must be private sector business members who do not have, and none of whose relatives as defined in s. 112.3143 has, a substantial financial interest in the design or delivery of the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program created under part V of chapter 1002 or the coalition’s school readiness program. To meet this requirement an early learning coalition must appoint additional members. The Office of Early Learning shall establish criteria for appointing private sector business members. These criteria must include standards for determining whether a member or relative has a substantial financial interest in the design or delivery of the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program or the coalition’s school readiness program.
8. A majority of the voting membership of an early learning coalition constitutes a quorum required to conduct the business of the coalition. An early learning coalition board may use any method of telecommunications to conduct meetings, including establishing a quorum through telecommunications, provided that the public is given proper notice of a telecommunications meeting and reasonable access to observe and, when appropriate, participate.
9. A voting member of an early learning coalition may not appoint a designee to act in his or her place, except as otherwise provided in this paragraph. A voting member may send a representative to coalition meetings, but that representative does not have voting privileges. When a district administrator for the Department of Children and Family Services appoints a designee to an early learning coalition, the designee is the voting member of the coalition, and any individual attending in the designee’s place, including the district administrator, does not have voting privileges.
10. Each member of an early learning coalition is subject to ss. 112.313, 112.3135, and 112.3143. For purposes of s. 112.3143(3)(a), each voting member is a local public officer who must abstain from voting when a voting conflict exists.
11. For purposes of tort liability, each member or employee of an early learning coalition shall be governed by s. 768.28.
12. An early learning coalition serving a multicounty region must include representation from each county.
13. Each early learning coalition shall establish terms for all appointed members of the coalition. The terms must be staggered and must be a uniform length that does not exceed 4 years per term. Coalition chairs shall be appointed for 4 years in conjunction with their membership on the Early Learning Advisory Council under s. 20.052. Appointed members may serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. When a vacancy occurs in an appointed position, the coalition must advertise the vacancy.
(b) Limitation.Except as provided by law, the early learning coalitions may not impose requirements on a child care or early childhood education provider that does not deliver services under the school readiness programs or receive state, federal, required maintenance of effort, or matching funds under this section.
(c) Program expectations.
1. The school readiness program must meet the following expectations:
a. The program must, at a minimum, enhance the age-appropriate progress of each child in attaining the performance standards and outcome measures adopted by the Office of Early Learning.
b. The program must provide extended-day and extended-year services to the maximum extent possible without compromising the quality of the program to meet the needs of parents who work.
c. The program must provide a coordinated professional development system that supports the achievement and maintenance of core competencies by school readiness instructors in helping children attain the performance standards and outcome measures adopted by the Office of Early Learning.
d. There must be expanded access to community services and resources for families to help achieve economic self-sufficiency.
e. There must be a single point of entry and unified waiting list. As used in this sub-subparagraph, the term “single point of entry” means an integrated information system that allows a parent to enroll his or her child in the school readiness program at various locations throughout a county, that may allow a parent to enroll his or her child by telephone or through an Internet website, and that uses a unified waiting list to track eligible children waiting for enrollment in the school readiness program. The Office of Early Learning shall establish through technology a single statewide information system that each coalition must use for the purposes of managing the single point of entry, tracking children’s progress, coordinating services among stakeholders, determining eligibility, tracking child attendance, and streamlining administrative processes for providers and early learning coalitions.
f. The Office of Early Learning must consider the access of eligible children to the school readiness program, as demonstrated in part by waiting lists, before approving a proposed increase in payment rates submitted by an early learning coalition. In addition, early learning coalitions shall use school readiness funds made available due to enrollment shifts from school readiness programs to the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program for increasing the number of children served in school readiness programs before increasing payment rates.
g. The program must meet all state licensing guidelines, where applicable.
h. The program must ensure that minimum standards for child discipline practices are age-appropriate. Such standards must provide that children not be subjected to discipline that is severe, humiliating, or frightening or discipline that is associated with food, rest, or toileting. Spanking or any other form of physical punishment is prohibited.
2. Each early learning coalition must implement a comprehensive program of school readiness services in accordance with the rules adopted by the office which enhance the cognitive, social, and physical development of children to achieve the performance standards and outcome measures. At a minimum, these programs must contain the following system support service elements:
a. Developmentally appropriate curriculum designed to enhance the age-appropriate progress of children in attaining the performance standards adopted by the Office of Early Learning under subparagraph (4)(d)8.
b. A character development program to develop basic values.
c. An age-appropriate screening of each child’s development.
d. An age-appropriate assessment administered to children when they enter a program and an age-appropriate assessment administered to children when they leave the program.
e. An appropriate staff-to-children ratio, pursuant to s. 402.305(4) or s. 402.302(8) or (11), as applicable, and as verified pursuant to s. 402.311.
f. A healthy and safe environment pursuant to s. 401.305(5), (6), and (7), as applicable, and as verified pursuant to s. 402.311.
g. A resource and referral network established under s. 411.0101 to assist parents in making an informed choice and a regional Warm-Line under s. 411.01015.

The Office of Early Learning and early learning coalitions shall coordinate with the Child Care Services Program Office of the Department of Children and Family Services to minimize duplicating interagency activities pertaining to acquiring and composing data for child care training and credentialing.

(d) Implementation.
1. An early learning coalition may not implement the school readiness program until the coalition’s school readiness plan is approved by the Office of Early Learning.
2. Each early learning coalition shall coordinate with one another to implement a comprehensive program of school readiness services which enhances the cognitive, social, physical, and moral character of the children to achieve the performance standards and outcome measures and which helps families achieve economic self-sufficiency. Such program must contain, at a minimum, the following elements:
a. Implement the school readiness program to meet the requirements of this section and the system support services, performance standards, and outcome measures adopted by the Office of Early Learning.
b. Demonstrate how the program will ensure that each child from birth through 5 years of age in a publicly funded school readiness program receives scheduled activities and instruction designed to enhance the age-appropriate progress of the children in attaining the performance standards adopted by the department under subparagraph (4)(d)8.
c. Ensure that the coalition has solicited and considered comments regarding the proposed school readiness plan from the local community.

Before implementing the school readiness program, the early learning coalition must submit the plan to the office for approval. The office may approve the plan, reject the plan, or approve the plan with conditions. The office shall review school readiness plans at least every 2 years.

3. If the Office of Early Learning determines during the review of school readiness plans, or through monitoring and performance evaluations conducted under paragraph (4)(l), that an early learning coalition has not substantially implemented its plan, has not substantially met the performance standards and outcome measures adopted by the office, or has not effectively administered the school readiness program or Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program, the office may dissolve the coalition and temporarily contract with a qualified entity to continue school readiness and prekindergarten services in the coalition’s county or multicounty region until the office reestablishes the coalition and a new school readiness plan is approved in accordance with the rules adopted by the office.
4. The Office of Early Learning shall adopt rules establishing criteria for the approval of school readiness plans. The criteria must be consistent with the system support services, performance standards, and outcome measures adopted by the office and must require each approved plan to include the following minimum standards for the school readiness program:
a. A community plan that addresses the needs of all children and providers within the coalition’s county or multicounty region.
b. A sliding fee scale establishing a copayment for parents based upon their ability to pay, which is the same for all program providers.
c. A choice of settings and locations in licensed, registered, religious-exempt, or school-based programs to be provided to parents.
d. Specific eligibility priorities for children in accordance with subsection (6).
e. Performance standards and outcome measures adopted by the office.
f. Payment rates adopted by the early learning coalitions and approved by the office. Payment rates may not have the effect of limiting parental choice or creating standards or levels of services that have not been expressly established by the Legislature, unless the creation of such standards or levels of service, which must be uniform throughout the state, has been approved by the Federal Government and result in the state being eligible to receive additional federal funds available for early learning on a statewide basis.
g. Direct enhancement services for families and children. System support and direct enhancement services shall be in addition to payments for the placement of children in school readiness programs. Direct enhancement services for families may include parent training and involvement activities and strategies to meet the needs of unique populations and local eligibility priorities. Enhancement services for children may include provider supports and professional development approved in the plan by the Office of Early Learning.
h. The business organization of the early learning coalition, which must include the coalition’s articles of incorporation and bylaws if the coalition is organized as a corporation. If the coalition is not organized as a corporation or other business entity, the plan must include the contract with a fiscal agent. An early learning coalition may contract with other coalitions to achieve efficiency in multicounty services, and these contracts may be part of the coalition’s school readiness plan.
i. The implementation of locally developed quality programs in accordance with the requirements adopted by the office under subparagraph (4)(d)5.

The Office of Early Learning may request the Governor to apply for a waiver to allow the coalition to administer the Head Start Program to accomplish the purposes of the school readiness program.

5. Persons with an early childhood teaching certificate may provide support and supervision to other staff in the school readiness program.
6. An early learning coalition may not implement its school readiness plan until it submits the plan to and receives approval from the Office of Early Learning. Once the plan is approved, the plan and the services provided under the plan shall be controlled by the early learning coalition. The plan shall be reviewed and revised as necessary, but at least biennially. An early learning coalition may not implement the revisions until the coalition submits the revised plan to and receives approval from the office. If the office rejects a revised plan, the coalition must continue to operate under its prior approved plan.
7. Section 125.901(2)(a)3. does not apply to school readiness programs. The Office of Early Learning may apply to the Governor and Cabinet for a waiver of, and the Governor and Cabinet may waive, any of the provisions of ss. 411.223 and 1003.54, if the waiver is necessary for implementation of school readiness programs.
8. Two or more early learning coalitions may join for purposes of planning and implementing a school readiness program.
(e) Requests for proposals; payment schedule.
1. Each early learning coalition must comply with the procurement and expenditure procedures adopted by the Office of Early Learning, including, but not limited to, applying the procurement and expenditure procedures required by federal law for the expenditure of federal funds.
2. Each early learning coalition shall adopt a payment schedule that encompasses all programs funded under this section. The payment schedule must take into consideration the prevailing market rate, must include the projected number of children to be served, and must be submitted for approval by the Office of Early Learning. Informal child care arrangements shall be reimbursed at not more than 50 percent of the rate adopted for a family day care home.
(f) Evaluation and annual report.Each early learning coalition shall conduct an evaluation of its implementation of the school readiness program, including system support services, performance standards, and outcome measures, and shall provide an annual report and fiscal statement to the Office of Early Learning. This report must also include an evaluation of the effectiveness of its direct enhancement services and conform to the content and format specifications adopted by the Office of Early Learning. The Office of Early Learning must include an analysis of the early learning coalitions’ reports in the office’s annual report.
(6) PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY.The school readiness program is established for children from birth to the beginning of the school year for which a child is eligible for admission to kindergarten in a public school under s. 1003.21(1)(a)2. or who are eligible for any federal subsidized child care program. Each early learning coalition shall give priority for participation in the school readiness program as follows:
(a) Priority shall be given first to a child from a family in which there is an adult receiving temporary cash assistance who is subject to federal work requirements.
(b) Priority shall be given next to a child who is eligible for a school readiness program but who has not yet entered school, who is served by the Family Safety Program Office of the Department of Children and Family Services or a community-based lead agency under chapter 39 or chapter 409, and for whom child care is needed to minimize risk of further abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
(c) Subsequent priority shall be given to a child who meets one or more of the following criteria:
1. A child who is younger than the age of kindergarten eligibility and:
a. Is at risk of welfare dependency, including an economically disadvantaged child, a child of a participant in the welfare transition program, a child of a migratory agricultural worker, or a child of a teen parent.
b. Is a member of a working family that is economically disadvantaged.
c. For whom financial assistance is provided through the Relative Caregiver Program under s. 39.5085.
2. A 3-year-old child or 4-year-old child who may not be economically disadvantaged but who has a disability; has been served in a specific part-time exceptional education program or a combination of part-time exceptional education programs with required special services, aids, or equipment; and was previously reported for funding part time under the Florida Education Finance Program as an exceptional student.
3. An economically disadvantaged child, a child with a disability, or a child at risk of future school failure, from birth to 4 years of age, who is served at home through a home visitor program and an intensive parent education program.
4. A child who meets federal and state eligibility requirements for the migrant preschool program but who is not economically disadvantaged.

As used in this paragraph, the term “economically disadvantaged” means having a family income that does not exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Notwithstanding any change in a family’s economic status, but subject to additional family contributions in accordance with the sliding fee scale, a child who meets the eligibility requirements upon initial registration for the program remains eligible until the beginning of the school year for which the child is eligible for admission to kindergarten in a public school under s. 1003.21(1)(a)2.

(7) PARENTAL CHOICE.
(a) Parental choice of child care providers shall be established, to the maximum extent practicable, in accordance with 45 C.F.R. s. 98.30.
(b) As used in this subsection, the term “payment certificate” means a child care certificate as defined in 45 C.F.R. s. 98.2.
(c) The school readiness program shall, in accordance with 45 C.F.R. s. 98.30, provide parental choice through a payment certificate that ensures, to the maximum extent possible, flexibility in the school readiness program and payment arrangements. The payment certificate must bear the names of the beneficiary and the program provider and, when redeemed, must bear the signatures of both the beneficiary and an authorized representative of the provider.
(d) If it is determined that a provider has given any cash to the beneficiary in return for receiving a payment certificate, the early learning coalition or its fiscal agent shall refer the matter to the Department of Financial Services pursuant to s. 414.411 for investigation.
(e) The office of the Chief Financial Officer shall establish an electronic transfer system for the disbursement of funds in accordance with this subsection. Each early learning coalition shall fully implement the electronic funds transfer system within 2 years after approval of the coalition’s school readiness plan, unless a waiver is obtained from the Office of Early Learning.
(8) STANDARDS; OUTCOME MEASURES.A program provider participating in the school readiness program must meet the performance standards and outcome measures adopted by the Office of Early Learning.
(9) FUNDING; SCHOOL READINESS PROGRAM.
(a) It is the intent of this section to establish an integrated and quality seamless service delivery system for all publicly funded early childhood education and child care programs operating in this state.
(b)1. The Office of Early Learning shall administer school readiness funds, plans, and policies and shall prepare and submit a unified budget request for the school readiness system in accordance with chapter 216.
2. All instructions to early learning coalitions for administering this section shall emanate from the Office of Early Learning in accordance with the policies of the Legislature.
(c) The Office of Early Learning, subject to legislative notice and review under s. 216.177, shall establish a formula for the allocation of all state and federal school readiness funds provided for children participating in the school readiness program, whether served by a public or private provider, based upon equity for each county. The allocation formula must be submitted to the Governor, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee or its successor, and the chair of the House of Representatives Fiscal Council or its successor no later than January 1 of each year. If the Legislature specifies changes to the allocation formula, the Office of Early Learning shall allocate funds as specified in the General Appropriations Act.
(d) All state, federal, and required local maintenance-of-effort or matching funds provided to an early learning coalition for purposes of this section shall be used for implementation of its approved school readiness plan, including the hiring of staff to effectively operate the coalition’s school readiness program. As part of plan approval and periodic plan review, the Office of Early Learning shall require that administrative costs be kept to the minimum necessary for efficient and effective administration of the school readiness plan, but total administrative expenditures must not exceed 5 percent unless specifically waived by the Office of Early Learning. The Office of Early Learning shall annually report to the Legislature any problems relating to administrative costs.
(e) The Office of Early Learning shall annually distribute, to a maximum extent practicable, all eligible funds provided under this section as block grants to the early learning coalitions in accordance with the terms and conditions specified by the office.
(f) State funds appropriated for the school readiness program may not be used for the construction of new facilities or the purchase of buses.
(g) All cost savings and all revenues received through a mandatory sliding fee scale shall be used to help fund each early learning coalition’s school readiness program.
(10) CONFLICTING PROVISIONS.If a conflict exists between this section and federal requirements, the federal requirements control.
(11) SUBSTITUTE INSTRUCTORS.Each school district shall make a list of all individuals currently eligible to act as a substitute teacher within the county pursuant to the rules adopted by the school district pursuant to s. 1012.35 available to an early learning coalition serving students within the school district. Child care facilities, as defined by s. 402.302, may employ individuals listed as substitute instructors for the purpose of offering the school readiness program, the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program, and all other legally operating child care programs.
History.s. 1, ch. 99-357; s. 65, ch. 2000-139; s. 1, ch. 2000-149; s. 97, ch. 2000-165; s. 12, ch. 2000-337; s. 55, ch. 2001-62; s. 13, ch. 2001-89; s. 20, ch. 2001-170; s. 114, ch. 2001-266; s. 4, ch. 2002-38; s. 998, ch. 2002-387; ss. 59, 79, ch. 2002-402; s. 48, ch. 2003-1; s. 453, ch. 2003-261; s. 3, ch. 2003-292; s. 74, ch. 2003-399; s. 49, ch. 2004-269; s. 2, ch. 2004-484; s. 2, ch. 2005-56; s. 2, ch. 2006-17; ss. 40, 41, 53, ch. 2006-26; s. 2, ch. 2008-196; s. 195, ch. 2010-102; s. 27, ch. 2010-114; s. 8, ch. 2010-144; s. 20, ch. 2010-161; s. 17, ch. 2010-210; s. 33, ch. 2011-4; s. 4, ch. 2011-75; s. 305, ch. 2011-142.