Pre-school director Alice Jensen worries lawmakers' attempts to create a pre-kindergarten program for all Florida four-year-olds will force her employees to get college degrees. She says it’s hard to find enough workers with even high school diplomas.
Alice says, “They’re not on a college track and the ones that are will not stay in childcare because they can’t get the salary that they get elsewhere.”
The proposed teacher credentialing requirements are six-hour class days and a one to 10 ratio of teachers to students. They remain the sticking points in the pre-k battle. There’s also the issue of the potential $600 million price tag, but the Children’s Campaign’s Linda Alexionok says the state is the winner if kids are well-prepared to start school.
Linda says, “We know and the economic studies show that for every dollar invested in quality pre-k, the state will see a return of $7.”
Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed the last attempt at a pre-k bill because it wasn’t strict enough. The question is whether lawmakers can overcome some of the same disputes over tough new requirements in a three-day special session.
A three-day special session may be overly optimistic. Lawmakers will also tackle insurance reform in the wake of Florida’s four hurricanes at the same time they’re hashing out pre-k.
Gov. Jeb Bush says, "Both of them are priorities and I think we can get both done. It may take more than three days though."
Time’s growing short. The program is set to start next fall and providers need as much time as possible to prepare.