Gov. Rick Scott (Pic via flgov.com)

Florida’s Office of Early Learning announced that today the state Florida will submit its application for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant, which is part of President Obama’s federal education initiative.

Florida is one of four states that is eligible for $100 million (the highest award amount) for early education funding through this federal program. The state’s eligibility to even apply was at one point in question because the state was not participating in a linked program that is funded through the Affordable Care Act. However, state legislators later accepted funds for the program that allows the state to apply.

While some GOP members of the Florida Legislature put up a fight when asked to accept the money so the state could apply for the Race to the Top grant, Gov. Rick Scott has been supportive of the early learning grant throughout the process.

In a press release today, Scott says:

Florida’s decision to compete in the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge is anchored on the bedrock conservative principles of smaller government and local solutions. This application will target at-risk children by offering support and training to existing private sector providers through block grants at the state-level, not by creating new government programs, to ensure every Floridian has a chance to receive a quality education.

The grant application designed by the Office of Early Leaning is the product of extensive consultation with private providers to find creative solutions that address a true need of those Florida children that have fallen through the cracks. The key condition for Florida’s participation in the Race to the Top Program is our commitment to ensuring that no federal strings are attached to any grants awarded and that no new burdensome regulations will be placed on private providers.

Florida’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge application is consistent with my vision for a world-class education system in the Sunshine State and meets our goal of ensuring the every Floridian has an equal opportunity to gain a quality education. It is my sincere belief that focusing on these at-risk children will save the citizens of the State of Florida from the economic and social costs that come from long-term dependence on welfare programs that are funded with their tax dollars.

Scott also stipulated that “Florida will only accept these grant dollars if the award comes back with no strings attached.”

“Additionally, if during the process of implementing this grant, the state finds unexpected new regulations being placed on private businesses, I pledge that Florida will not move forward with implementation,” Scott said.

Child advocates, educators and public child care providers have supported of the grant. However, conservative political groups in Florida dislike the idea of Florida accepting money from Race to the Top.

Andrew Nappi, head of Florida’s 10th Amendment Center, told Sunshine State News that Florida legislators have “traded away our education sovereignty by taking Race To The Top funds.”

“Our governor, who is chief executive of a state that is party to a lawsuit to stop Obamacare, has already taken $3.4 million from it so as not to lose further Race To The Top funds,” Nappi said.

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