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The Florida Statutes

The 2021 Florida Statutes

Title XLVIII
EARLY LEARNING-20 EDUCATION CODE
Chapter 1002
STUDENT AND PARENTAL RIGHTS AND EDUCATIONAL CHOICES
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F.S. 1002.82
1002.82 Department of Education; powers and duties.
(1) For purposes of administration of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Trust Fund, pursuant to 45 C.F.R. parts 98 and 99, the department is designated as the lead agency and must comply with lead agency responsibilities pursuant to federal law. The department may apply to the Governor and Cabinet for a waiver of, and the Governor and Cabinet may waive, any provision of ss. 411.223 and 1003.54 if the waiver is necessary for implementation of the school readiness program. Section 125.901(2)(a)3. does not apply to the school readiness program.
(2) The department shall:
(a) Focus on improving the educational quality delivered by all providers participating in the school readiness program.
(b) Preserve parental choice by permitting parents to choose from a variety of child care categories, including center-based care, family child care, and informal child care to the extent authorized in the state’s Child Care and Development Fund Plan as approved by the United States Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to 45 C.F.R. s. 98.18. Care and curriculum by a faith-based provider may not be limited or excluded in any of these categories.
(c) Be responsible for the prudent use of all public and private funds in accordance with all legal and contractual requirements, safeguarding the effective use of federal, state, and local resources to achieve the highest practicable level of school readiness for the children described in s. 1002.87, including:
1. The adoption of a uniform chart of accounts for budgeting and financial reporting purposes that provides standardized definitions for expenditures and reporting, consistent with the requirements of 45 C.F.R. part 98 and s. 1002.89 for each of the following categories of expenditure:
a. Direct services to children.
b. Administrative costs.
c. Quality activities.
d. Nondirect services.
2. Coordination with other state and federal agencies to perform data matches on children participating in the school readiness program and their families in order to verify the children’s eligibility pursuant to s. 1002.87.
(d) Establish procedures for the biennial calculation of the prevailing market rate or an alternative model that has been approved by the Administration for Children and Families pursuant to 45 C.F.R. s. 98.45(c).
(e) Review each early learning coalition’s school readiness program plan every 2 years and provide final approval of the plan and any amendments submitted.
(f) Establish a unified approach to the state’s efforts to coordinate a comprehensive early learning program. In support of this effort, the department:
1. Shall adopt specific program support services that address the state’s school readiness program, including:
a. Statewide data information program requirements that include:
(I) Eligibility requirements.
(II) Financial reports.
(III) Program accountability measures.
(IV) Child progress reports.
b. Child care resource and referral services.
c. A single point of entry and uniform waiting list.
2. May provide technical assistance and guidance on additional support services to complement the school readiness program, including:
a. Warm-Line services.
b. Anti-fraud plans.
c. Training and support for parental involvement in children’s early education.
d. Family literacy activities and services.
(g) Provide technical assistance to early learning coalitions.
(h) In cooperation with the early learning coalitions, coordinate with the Child Care Services Program Office of the Department of Children and Families to reduce paperwork and to avoid duplicating interagency activities, health and safety monitoring, and acquiring and composing data pertaining to child care training and credentialing.
(i) Enter into a memorandum of understanding with local licensing agencies and the Child Care Services Program Office of the Department of Children and Families for inspections of school readiness program providers to monitor and verify compliance with s. 1002.88 and the health and safety checklist adopted by the department. The provider contract of a school readiness program provider that refuses permission for entry or inspection shall be terminated. The health and safety checklist may not exceed the requirements of s. 402.305 and the Child Care and Development Fund pursuant to 45 C.F.R. part 98. A child development program that is accredited by a national accrediting body and operates on a military installation that is certified by the United States Department of Defense is exempted from the inspection requirements under s. 1002.88.
(j) Monitor the alignment and consistency of the standards and benchmarks developed and adopted by the department that address the age-appropriate progress of children in the development of school readiness skills. The standards for children from birth to kindergarten entry in the school readiness program must be aligned with the performance standards adopted for children in the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program and must address the following domains:
1. Approaches to learning.
2. Cognitive development and general knowledge.
3. Numeracy, language, and communication.
4. Physical development.
5. Self-regulation.
(k) Identify observation-based child assessments that are valid, reliable, and developmentally appropriate for use at least three times a year. The assessments must:
1. Provide interval level and norm-referenced data that measures equivalent levels of growth across the core domains of early childhood development and that can be used for determining developmentally appropriate learning gains.
2. Measure progress in the performance standards adopted pursuant to paragraph (j).
3. Provide for appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities and English language learners and be administered by qualified individuals, consistent with the developer’s instructions.
4. Coordinate with the performance standards adopted by the department under s. 1002.67(1) for the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program.
5. Provide data in a format for use in the single statewide information system to meet the requirements of paragraph (q).
(l) Adopt a list of approved curricula that meet the performance standards for the school readiness program and establish a process for the review and approval of a provider’s curriculum that meets the performance standards.
(m) Provide technical support to an early learning coalition to facilitate the use of a standard statewide provider contract adopted by the department to be used with each school readiness program provider, with standardized attachments by provider type. The department shall publish a copy of the standard statewide provider contract on its website. The standard statewide contract shall include, at a minimum, contracted slots, if applicable, in accordance with the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, 45 C.F.R. parts 98 and 99; quality improvement strategies, if applicable; program assessment requirements; and provisions for provider probation, termination for cause, and emergency termination for those actions or inactions of a provider that pose an immediate and serious danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the children. The standard statewide provider contract shall also include appropriate due process procedures. During the pendency of an appeal of a termination, the provider may not continue to offer its services. Any provision imposed upon a provider that is inconsistent with, or prohibited by, law is void and unenforceable. Provisions for termination for cause must also include failure to meet the minimum quality measures established under paragraph (n) for a period of up to 5 years, unless the coalition determines that the provider is essential to meeting capacity needs based on the assessment under s. 1002.85(2)(j) and the provider has an active improvement plan pursuant to paragraph (n).
(n) Adopt a program assessment for school readiness program providers that measures the quality of teacher-child interactions, including emotional and behavioral support, engaged support for learning, classroom organization, and instructional support for children ages birth to 5 years. The implementation of the program assessment must include the following components adopted by rule of the State Board of Education:
1. Quality measures, including a minimum program assessment composite score for contracting purposes and program improvement through an improvement plan.
2. Requirements for program participation, frequency of program assessment, and exemptions.
(o) No later than July 1, 2019, develop a differential payment program based on the quality measures adopted by the department under paragraph (n). The differential payment may not exceed a total of 15 percent for each care level and unit of child care for a child care provider. No more than 5 percent of the 15 percent total differential may be provided to providers who submit valid and reliable data to the statewide information system in the domains of language and executive functioning using a child assessment identified pursuant to paragraph (k). Providers below the minimum program assessment score adopted for contracting purposes are ineligible for such payment.
(p) No later than July 1, 2022, develop and adopt requirements for the implementation of a program designed to make available contracted slots to serve children at the greatest risk of school failure as determined by such children being located in an area that has been designated as a poverty area tract according to the latest census data. The contracted slot program may also be used to increase the availability of child care capacity based on the assessment under s. 1002.85(2)(j).
(q) Establish 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 of children, tracking child attendance, and streamlining administrative processes for providers and early learning coalitions. By July 1, 2019, the system, subject to ss. 1002.72 and 1002.97, shall:
1. Allow a parent to monitor the development of his or her child as the child moves among programs within the state.
2. Enable analysis at the state, regional, and local level to measure child growth over time, program impact, and quality improvement and investment decisions.
(r) Provide technical support to coalitions to facilitate the use of standardized procedures adopted in state board rule for early learning coalitions to use when monitoring the compliance of school readiness program providers with the terms of the standard statewide provider contract.
(s) At least biennially provide fiscal and programmatic monitoring to evaluate the performance of each early learning coalition in administering the school readiness program, ensuring proper payments for school readiness program services, implementing the coalition’s school readiness program 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.
(t) Work in conjunction with the Bureau of Federal Education Programs within the department to coordinate readiness and voluntary prekindergarten services to the populations served by the bureau.
(u) Administer a statewide toll-free Warm-Line to provide assistance and consultation to child care facilities and family day care homes regarding health, developmental, disability, and special needs issues of the children they are serving, particularly children with disabilities and other special needs. The department shall:
1. Annually inform child care facilities and family day care homes of the availability of this service through the child care resource and referral network under s. 1002.92.
2. Expand or contract for the expansion of the Warm-Line to maintain at least one Warm-Line in each early learning coalition service area.
(v) Develop and implement strategies to increase the supply and improve the quality of child care services for infants and toddlers, children with disabilities, children who receive care during nontraditional hours, children in underserved areas, and children in areas that have significant concentrations of poverty and unemployment.
(w) Establish preservice and inservice training requirements that address, at a minimum, school readiness child development standards, health and safety requirements, and social-emotional behavior intervention models, which may include positive behavior intervention and support models, including the integration of early learning professional development pathways established in s. 1002.995.
(x) Establish standards for emergency preparedness plans for school readiness program providers.
(y) Establish group sizes.
(z) Establish staff-to-children ratios that do not exceed the requirements of s. 402.302(8) or (11) or s. 402.305(4), as applicable, for school readiness program providers.
(aa) Establish eligibility criteria, including limitations based on income and family assets, in accordance with s. 1002.87 and federal law.
(3)(a) The department shall adopt performance standards and outcome measures for early learning coalitions that, at a minimum, include the development of objective and statistically valid customer service surveys by a state university 1or other independent researcher with specific expertise in customer service survey development. The survey shall be deployed beginning in fiscal year 2022-2023 and be distributed to:
1. Customers who use the services in s. 1002.92 upon the completion of a referral inquiry.
2. Parents, annually, at the time of eligibility determination.
3. Child care providers that participate in the school readiness program or the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program at the time of execution of the statewide provider contract.
4. Board members required under s. 1002.83.
(b) Results of the survey shall be based on a statistically significant sample size of completed surveys and calculated annually for each early learning coalition and included in the department’s annual report under subsection (7). If an early learning coalition’s customer satisfaction survey results are below 60 percent, the coalition shall be placed on a 1-year corrective action plan that outlines the specific steps the coalition shall take to improve the results of the customer service surveys, including, but not limited to, technical assistance, staff professional development, or coaching. If, after being placed on corrective action, an early learning coalition’s customer satisfaction survey results do not improve above the 60 percent threshold, the department may contract out or merge the coalition.
(4) If the department determines during the review of school readiness program plans, or through monitoring and performance evaluations conducted under s. 1002.85, that an early learning coalition has not substantially implemented its plan, has not substantially met the performance standards and outcome measures adopted by the department or the terms of a customer service corrective action plan, or has not effectively administered the school readiness program or Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program, the department may remove the coalition from eligibility to administer early learning programs and contract with a qualified entity to continue school readiness program and prekindergarten services in the coalition’s county or multicounty region until the department reestablishes or merges the coalition and a new school readiness program plan is approved in accordance with the rules adopted by the state board.
(5) The department shall adopt procedures for merging early learning coalitions for failure to meet the requirements of subsection (3) or subsection (4), including procedures for the consolidation of merging coalitions that minimize duplication of programs and services due to the merger, and for the early termination of the terms of the coalition members which are necessary to accomplish the mergers.
(6) The department may request the Governor to apply for a waiver to allow a coalition to administer the Head Start Program to accomplish the purposes of the school readiness program.
(7) By January 1 of each year, the department shall annually publish on its website a report of its activities conducted under this section. The report must include a summary of the coalitions’ annual reports, a statewide summary, and the following:
(a) An analysis of early learning activities throughout the state, including the school readiness program and the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program.
1. The total and average number of children served in the school readiness program, enumerated by age, eligibility priority category, and coalition, and the total number of children served in the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program.
2. A summary of expenditures by coalition, by fund source, including a breakdown by coalition of the percentage of expenditures for administrative activities, quality activities, nondirect services, and direct services for children.
3. A description of the department’s and each coalition’s expenditures by fund source for the quality and enhancement activities described in s. 1002.89(5)(b).
4. A summary of annual findings and collections related to provider fraud and parent fraud.
5. Data regarding the coalitions’ delivery of early learning programs.
6. The total number of children disenrolled statewide and the reason for disenrollment.
7. The total number of providers by provider type.
8. The number of school readiness program providers who have completed the program assessment required under paragraph (2)(n); the number of providers who have not met the minimum program assessment composite score for contracting established under paragraph (2)(n); and the number of providers that have an active improvement plan based on the results of the program assessment under paragraph (2)(n).
9. The total number of provider contracts revoked and the reasons for revocation.
(b) A detailed summary of the analysis compiled using the single statewide information system established in subsection (2).
(8)(a) Parental choice of child care providers, including private and faith-based 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 provides, 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 or other consideration 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.
(9) Participation in the school readiness program does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, its officers, or an early learning coalition to impose any additional regulation on providers beyond those necessary to enforce the requirements set forth in this part and part V of this chapter.
History.s. 17, ch. 2013-252; s. 16, ch. 2016-238; s. 2, ch. 2018-136; s. 118, ch. 2019-3; s. 1, ch. 2019-126; s. 49, ch. 2021-10.
1Note.The word “or” was substituted for the word “of” by the editors to facilitate correct interpretation.