Former Republican state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale is executive director of the Florida Association for Child Care Management, an association of private early learning providers with 1,200 members. She has held the post since 2012.
Bogdanoff was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, representing parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. She served there until 2010, including a stint as majority whip. In 2010, when Jeff Atwater ran for chief financial officer, Bogdanoff ran for his Senate seat and won. In 2012, however, when the Senate districts were reconfigured, Bogdanoff was drawn into a district with Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs and lost a hard-fought race.
Bogdanoff is an attorney with a background in insurance and risk management and degrees from the University of Florida and Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law School. She and her husband, Steve, have three children.
The News Service of Florida has five questions for Ellyn Bogdanoff:
Q: Early learning has been in a state of flux at the Legislature. What does your agenda look like for the upcoming session?
BOGDANOFF: I don't know if it's been in a state of flux. I think it's been stuck in neutral, in terms of how the Legislature has looked at early learning. We're trying very diligently to convince the Legislature that early learning is actually the foundation. K-12 is important, and I've always been a proponent of education, K-12 and public education, but the foundation is early learning. And we need to recognize it as not a stepchild, but actually the foundation.
The reimbursement rates for early learning -- I mean, obviously there's the private sector, and people who send their kids to preschool on a voluntary basis. There are those who choose to home-school their kids until they're ready for pre-K or kindergarten. And government actually has the School Readiness dollars that they provide to the private sector and to the public sector, to take care of those children who can't afford to take care of themselves.
So we've developed from people who think it's just baby-sitting to school readiness to actually the foundation. And we are going to try to convince the Legislature of its importance, to hopefully get an increase in reimbursement rates so that our private providers can actually serve the children and that the children who can't afford it have access to the quality child-care program of their choice.
Q: How far away are we from reducing the waiting list for early learning programs?
BOGDANOFF: Well, the waiting list is probably the biggest mystery of all, simply because it changes constantly. When somebody qualifies for the waiting list tomorrow, they could actually be off the waiting list today. So it's very confusing in terms of what those numbers really are.
I think this year we're going to be trying to focus on what (House Education Committee) Chairman (Marlene) O'Toole is going to be focusing on, and that is quality. For the first time in many years, I think the private providers and FACCM are on the same page with a lot of the advocates, where we need to actually focus on quality and making sure we create some barriers to entry. Right now, if you love children and you want to take care of them, you get a license regardless of whether or not you're qualified to do so. And I think we need to create some barriers to entry, we need to support those quality centers, so that all our children have access to quality.
Q: Having been a foster parent and a guardian ad litem, how would you describe the state of children in Florida?
BOGDANOFF: Well, I think that Florida can always do better for the children who need the services of government, especially those in the care of (the Department of Children and Families). I think, actually, to bring it back, if we make the priority of children in care and give them priority in quality early-learning centers, there's another set of eyes. Things happen, and it's quite unfortunate, but the more people that are watching, taking care of children who need us, I think, the better.
Q: You're known to be both pro-business and pro-social services. To many, those are mutually exclusive -- why not to you?
BOGDANOFF: I don't think they are mutually exclusive. I am actually very pro-business, and I feel that government isn't necessarily the one that has all the answers. I believe that the private sector has a lot of the answers to solve a lot of our societal ills and problems. I've just been always an education and child advocate. I was a foster parent and a guardian ad litem, so I believe that it's important to reach out and to give back to your community.
I also believe that government has a limited role in taking care of those that cant take care of themselves. Government is a safety net. It's not the answer for everything. So I think that there could be a great marriage between the private sector and the public sector to solving society's problems, but you can also be pro-business and do that, too.
Q: Will you run for public office again?
BOGDANOFF: (Laughs.) I haven't ruled it out. (Have you ruled out any office?) No, we're exploring some stuff and I will probably know after the first of the year as to what direction -- whether I simply continue to advocate, as I did prior to getting elected, from the outside, or whether or not it serves me and the community for me to be advocating from the inside.