PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County’s Early Learning Coalition just got a big financial boost from the state to expand its school readiness program. Legislators added an additional $3.8 million to the ELC’s budget, allowing the organization to enroll 1,000 more preschoolers.

“So, by getting these scholarships, families are able to continue in the workforce or re-enter the workforce and support their families, knowing that their children are getting great quality care that’s supports their development.” said Pinellas ELC CEO Lindsay Carson.

“The organization currently serves about 6,000 families who pay a minimal fee to enroll their children, thanks to state funding. 

“They recognized that we had children on waiting lists throughout the state,” Carson explained. “[Legislators] appropriated dollars so that we would be able to serve those families, and they would be able to work,” Carson said.

Tracy Bennett’s four year old daughter is enrolled in the program. She says it’s a godsend. 

“It would’ve made it much more difficult because I’m a single parent supporting two children,” Bennett said. “So it would’ve greatly impacted me because I would’ve had to pay full price for her education as well as trying to work.”

She added that the program has helped her daughter. 

“She’s learned more than I can ever imagine. She’s literally reading and doing things at such a young age that I didn’t expect at all.”