Lawmakers in Tallahassee say they finally have a plan to set up a pre-kindergarten program for every four-year-old in the state. The 94-page bill was introduced during a press conference at the Capitol building Wednesday.
Senate Budget Chairman Lisa Carlton says they want to create a high quality program that goes far beyond mere babysitting.
"They are going to have three hours of instructional time. It’s very clear in this bill that those are instructional hours. We’re going, this is not a daycare program, this is instructional day of learning environment, not a daycare program."
Child advocates are disappointed with the plan because it only amounts to three hours of pre-k per day, about half of what they think it should be, but Senate President Tom Lee says they need to ease into it.
"To get way out in front and potentially over design a program that we have yet had the evidence to ensure that it’s going to be essential to achieve, the outcomes to me would be irresponsible."
State Rep. Fred Dudley says it’s not the time in class that counts, it’s the quality of the classes.
"I think you are going to see that there are components of this bill beyond the three hours. It’s 540 instructional hours, that’s not babysitting time. I think if you read the definitions, you read the bill, you look at what’s in there, you look at the credentials, you look at the ratios, this is quality pre-kindergarten program."
The total cost of the pre-k program is estimated at $300 to $400 million. Lawmakers will vote on the plan next week when they return to the state Capitol for a special session of the Legislature.