Originally established in 1999, by Florida Statute 411.01, The Polk County School Readiness Coalition, Inc. doing business as The Early Learning Coalition of Polk County is recognized as a leader in the community with early education and care initiatives serving as many as 9,000 children a month in the programs funded by federal, state, and local dollars. In 2005, the Voluntary PreKindergarten Program (VPK) was added to the Coalition’s responsibilities under Florida Statute 1002.51. The Coalition has built upon this responsibility providing VPK services to 4,849 children across the county.
Throughout the last few years, the Coalition, along with its many partners across the state, has been educating the local delegates on the importance of high quality early education and care and its significantly positive outcomes. This fiscal year has brought great progress toward the goal of unifying state efforts to better serve the children and families with the most need. In July of 2013, the new education bill was signed into law bringing with it numerous changes to the programs that are offered by the Coalition, all designed to streamline services and more efficiently assist the families and children across the state and right here in Polk County.
In recent years the number of children and families needing services has increased due to hard economic times, yet even with this increase, the Coalition has made considerable progress in minimizing the number of children who are on the wait list and continue to serve those in need. While the road to economic stability is long, the Coalition knows that empowering children today with the chance to develop the skills they need to become educated adults will greatly affect the economy of the future. Therefore, the Coalition continues to develop its programs to better serve these children.
The Coalition’s programs have been refined over time by assisting providers to improve the quality of their sites and make efforts to keep children safe. Most providers understand the accountability the Board requires, and they know that the Coalition is available with Quality Specialists who are in the field to help them raise the quality of their sites and programs using technical assistance and training with a wide range of early education and care techniques and teaching.
Polk County’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS), Quality Counts, has grown to 69 child care centers participating during the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The Coalition has also increased marketing to promote quality programs and educate the community on the benefits of the Quality Counts Program. Each year providers are anxious to achieve their star rating so that they can share that achievement with their staff and the children’s parents.
As the Coalition continues to serve the children and families of Polk County, the next generation is given the opportunity to develop the skills they will need to be successful in their future. This is the aspiration which has motivated the Coalition since its inception because when children are successful, everyone wins.