PRE-K PLAN IN TROUBLE - Mitch Perry

03/17/04

A bill that both Republican Governor Jeb Bush and many Democratic legislators fear would water down standards for a constitutionally required prekindergarten program

is moving through the Legislature.

 The House Education Committee approved the bill today.

 The Republican-dominated panel voted 21-8 to move the bill after

90 minutes of sometimes testy maneuvering that Democrats claimed

was designed to muzzle them.

Last week The St. Petersburg Times reported that plans for the voluntary Universal Pre-Kindergarten program that was approved by voters as a Constitutional Amendment 2 years ago were already in trouble.

David Lawrence, who worked on getting the Pre-K Amendment passed and was named by Governor Bush as a special assistant to him on universal Pre-K, told the Times editorial board that the plan was "in significant peril". And he says he'll personally sue if the legislature fails to do exactly what was intended by the voters,,,

One battle already being discussed in Tallahassee is WHERE the state will house the program.....Governor Bush has suggested putting it under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education.....But Pre-Kindergarten is currently housed with the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation, which manages child care issues.

Miami Dade County Mayor Alex Pinellas was the co-author of the Pre-K Amendment, and worked extensively to get the issue passed by nearly 60% of the public.....

He says THIS is the year in the Legislature must actually implement the will of the people, and says if sufficient amount of funding is NOT allocated, the Pre-K plan could become a glorified baby sitting program (roll tape#1 o.q."age appropriate education")

Governor Jeb Bush's proposal, which mirrors one from a statewide advisory panel, would require at least one teacher in each classroom to have an associate's degree in early childhood education by 2010, and at least one with a bachelor's degree in that area by 2013.....It does NOT specify how the state could attract more people to the profession, or support their training.

Miami Dade Mayor & Democratic candidate for Senate Alex Pinellas shares some of Kilmer's view, but says the program needs to be longer than that (roll tape#2 o.q."be required of these teachers")

The plan is scheduled to go into effect by the 2005-2006 school year....

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