Florida House Close to Passing Pre-K Bill

The plan falls far short of what many parents and teachers wanted.

Larry Keough represents 200 Catholic preschools around the state. He’s very disappointed the pre-k bill poised for passage at the Capitol only provides a three-hour class day.

Larry says, "When you talk about four-year-olds, you’re dealing with bathroom breaks, interruptions, recess and so forth, so the 3.0 hours probably translates to less than two hours or so of actual academic instruction."

Lawmakers’ debate over how many hours the preschool program should have is breaking down into a fight between rich and poor. Representatives from low-income districts argue a three-hour day won’t help a working or single-parent family.

Rep. Terry Fields says, “Everybody does not have the luxury to have their housekeeper pick up a child after three hours.”

But Republicans say this pre-k program isn’t supposed to be a babysitting service and they think a three-hour day is a good starting point.

Rep. Frank Arza says, "I think this is a good bill. It starts Florida on the proper foundation to make sure children have those fundamental principals of reading.”

Republicans did agree to increase the number of teachers to two per class if the class has more than 10 children, but Rep. Frank Peterman still fears they’re short changing the children.

"Every kid should have a chance to have a decent educational experience here in the state of Florida, so yeah, I think the money should be put on the front end," he says.

Bottom line, though, lawmakers have to start somewhere, and they’re not budging from a three-hour day. The House is expected to pass its version Wednesday. The bill then goes to the Senate.