Florida's Universal Pre-K Program Begins in a Week

Florida's lieutenant governor went back to school Tuesday, or in this case, pre-school.

Toni Jennings stopped by a private provider called the "Kid's Club" in Tallahassee to read with the four-year-olds and plug the pre-k program that begins next month.

"We want to make sure that all children are aware, that parents are aware, that there are slots available. They do need to register their families, their children, even if they did a pre-registration all it takes is a birth certificate and a proof of residency and they will be registered and they can go from there."

When they approved the program, state lawmakers expected almost 150,000 kids would be enrolled, but state Pre-K Coordinator Gladys Wilson says only about half that number have registered so far.

"We have about 82,000 children who have actually either completed the paper work and are in the system, or in the process, so we are looking at about 82,000 children."

And Wilson says they're bracing for a last minute flood of applicants once parents realize that the pre-k program is about to get started.

"We don't want a four-year-old showing up with their new backpack, and their new shoes and their new clothes and have to go home, so we really want to make sure that parents get it done and get in the centers or schools that work out for them that they want."

If you look at the statewide numbers, Wilson says there are enough spaces for all the kids who have been enrolled, but there are 12 counties that still don't have enough slots for all the kids. Broward needs another 3,200 seats. Dade is short by 2,704. Sarasota County needs another 393 seats.

In Bay County 87 percent of the eligible children for the pre-k program have enrolled. That’s just over 1,300 students locally.