Lawmakers Agree to Special Session on Pre-K, Hurricane, Other Issues

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Lawmakers say they’re finally close enough to an agreement on what Florida needs in a pre-kindergarten program to call a special session and make it happen, but details of the plan including some of the main sticking points are still unclear.

Children’s Advocate Linda Alexionok says parents want a six-hour program, but it appears lawmakers will only agree to three or four.

“There needs to be a six-hour day because they can’t leave their jobs after four hours and say, I have to go pick up my child, and then I have to move my child to another place.”

Lawmakers though were all smiles Friday as they signed the paperwork for the special session. The special session will also tackle hurricane headaches, like double deductibles, beach restoration and tax relief for owners of damaged property, plus other issues like funding for juvenile justice.

But if they can’t get it all done, Senate President Tom Lee says he’s cool with that as long as pre-k is at the top of the list.

“I personally am not going to feel like I’m under a lot of pressure to get all these things done if we can get them done right.”

Democrats say they’ll continue pushing for quality controls in the pre-k bill like a one to 10 ratio of teachers to kids and teachers with college degrees, but House Minority Leader Chris Smith says they can live with fewer hours.

“We need to start the process rolling so we can get all the rules together so when all these kids start showing up, that we can have something done in time for them to adequately go through the program. Four hours, we think, is a good start.”

Time is wasting. The pre-k program is scheduled to begin in less than nine months.

Florida lawmakers are preparing for as many as 100,000 four-year-olds to enroll in the free pre-kindergarten program. The special legislative session runs from Monday, December 13 through Friday, December 17.