THE FULL STORY
Jacksonville is a top performer in many of the Florida Talent indicators, with leading rates for kindergarten readiness (51.62% of kindergarteners) and third-grade reading (56.23% of third-grade students passed their English Arts FSA with a 3 or better). The community has formed concerted efforts to fund and improve early learning programming by aligning municipal, non-profit, and private providers. These providers work to improve childcare access for families while aiding in the professional development of teachers and improving the quality of existing programs.
The Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) is a funding agent for the city of Jacksonville that also manages the implementation and monitors the outcomes of their funded partners. Last year alone, KHA invested $38.3M in children’s and youth programs and services county-wide. The city of Jacksonville supports them with $35M in annual funding, and the organization obtained an additional $7.15M through grants.
Strategic partnerships with third-party providers and non-profits connected over 21,000 children to a continuum of critical services, including academics, enrichment, nutrition, and mental health.
Among these resources, early learning coaches from The Kids Hope Alliance help transform existing childcare centers into high-quality early learning programs which meet or exceed the Guiding Stars of Duval (GSOD) quality rating and improvement system.
Childcare center owners, directors, and teachers receive technical assistance and training related to leadership, CDA credentialing, quality curriculum, and assessments. Centers learn how to track progress along the state accepted or approved VPK Readiness Rate and the Child Outcomes: Bracken Basic Concept Scale, Test of Preschool Early Literacy, VPK Assessment. To date, over 500 teachers have received over 19,000 instructional coaching sessions. 70% of providers who have completed the training Scored Within the Medium to Very High Range on the CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System) Tool.
Additionally, the Kids Hope Alliance has created resources for parents, including recommendations for books and corresponding activities through the City of Jacksonville Library System. The Little Learners program of the JaxKids Book Club assists in boosting literacy and a love of reading while providing age-appropriate development activities.
As in other communities, childcare and VPK can be cost-prohibitive. Although the bulk of their budget comes from the city, KHA’s grants-driven fiscal model allows them to scale services on an annual basis. However, the organization notes that this only provides supplementary funding in short-term increments (1-3 years). KHA does not benefit from property tax revenues (millage), an approach that bolsters other counties. For context:
- Millage provides approximately:
- $175 per child in Hillsborough County
- $731 per child in Pinellas County
- KHA’s funding structure translates to $196 of funding per child aged 0-17
- or $953 of funding per child in poverty in Duval County.*
State funding in Florida will only cover 4 hours of curriculum a day. KHA addresses this barrier by applying the largest segment of funding to out-of-school programming. Last year, 4,750 children benefited from scholarships.
Innovative funding structures, county-wide collaboration, and addressing the issues from all angles (access, quality, home life) have been instrumental in raising the literacy and kindergarten readiness of the Jacksonville MSA.