Under a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters every four-year-old child in Florida must have a free and voluntary Pre-K program available by the fall of 2005.
The governor’s veto of the legislation creating the program is getting rave reviews from almost everyone involved, including Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Wayne Blanton.
Blanton said school boards around the state would have to administer many of the programs. “The people of Florida voted for an educational service and not for a babysitting service."
The basic complaints over what the Legislature passed are that there was too little time spent learning and no certification for teachers.
Ted Granger of the United Way of Florida is one of the many voices that called for the veto. "You have to have the number of hours in a day for the teacher and the children to be together for the children to learn."
Rep. Bev Kilmer of Marianna handled the bill in the Florida House of Representatives and she disagrees with the governor. "I’m just very apprehensive for where we go now and having to do so much in just a short period of time."
The veto puts lawmakers in a time crunch to meet the voters’ demands to have this program up and running in 2005, and because of that there is talk of a special session either in November or perhaps as late as January.
Linda Alexionok of the Florida Children’s Campaign says the state can do much better. "You are looking at the teacher certification and the quality of the teacher, and then the curriculum."
Besides too little class time and uncertified teachers, the bill had no provision for transporting kids or providing money for food or supplies.