By: Steven Hicks 

The Early Learning Coalition of Brevard is well-known in the community. There are quite a few little ones in our area, who, along with their families, are receiving services through the ELC, and that is through two primary programs they administer. One is the School Readiness Program which assists low- to moderate-income working families with the cost of childcare. There are about 3,700 children enrolled in this program alone in Brevard County. Sky Beard, the ELC’s executive director, tells us, “It is very challenging for many families to afford quality child care and still afford all those other expenses all families have. You have rent, your car and food and insurance and all those other things. That’s why you hear a lot of families say, ‘I don’t even bother working, because my whole paycheck goes to pay for childcare.’”

The School Readiness Program is state and federally funded. It allows the ELC to help families with the cost of daycare. “But they pay a part as well; that’s important,” Beard adds. It really is a twofold benefit that families can continue to work and go to school, and in many cases families are doing both. “Keeping families earning and attending school to better themselves ultimately leads to self-sufficiency for that family, better outcomes for that family and of course, for our community,” Beard says.

The ELC also administers Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten, or VPK. VPK is state-funded and it is free for all four-year-olds regardless of income. School Readiness is an income-based program, but VPK is not. Brevard County actually has the highest enrollment in the state of four-year-olds in VPK. Ninety-two percent or so of all four-year-olds in Brevard County are enrolled in a VPK program.

Beard says, “One of the most significant pieces of our mission is to make sure that when children are eligible for early childhood programs, that the places that they go, that the choices that parents make as to where they enroll their children, are of high quality. We are really not satisfied with just having children enrolled. We are as equally concerned that where they go provides the high quality education that we know that they need and deserve.” The ELC also vets, monitors and administers all the VPK providers in the county. They also provide professional development, technical assistance and coaching for teachers and directors in those programs.

“We have fabulous partnerships with many community partners, like Brevard Public Schools, who are also interested in our work,” Beard points out. “We have really good alliances in that way to help us move forward. It’s definitely a community mission.” 

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