Patti Neal’s children all go to a catholic school.
Patti says, "We do have one in pre-k and she’s getting an excellent education. She goes the full day and it’s preparing her well for kindergarten, but primarily I think it’s the values that is important to us, to be in a place that shares the same values that we have."
But parents enrolling their four-year-olds in the state’s new pre-k program may not have the option of choosing a Catholic school. The Florida Catholic Conference says it may take a pass on participating.
The Catholics wanted a six-hour school day instead of a three-hour program. They say the state’s $2,500 per student falls more than $1,000 short of what Catholic schools spend to educate each four-year-old. Plus, spokesman Larry Keough says participating pre-ks can pick and choose who they let in, for example, they don’t have to let in poor kids.
Larry says, "Don’t have to enroll a child if he or she has a disability, at risk, has a developmental delay, a language problem, and then the bill does allow for providers to discriminate based on religion."
Jeb Bush was surprised and annoyed at the Catholic’s announcement.
"I wish they would have talked to us beforehand. That’s the first step normally, so rather than comment first I’m going to talk to them, show it how it should be done," says Bush.
The trouble is, the Catholic Conference did express its concerns before the pre-k bill passed, along with many other groups, but lawmakers went with what they knew they could pass. The price may be having to get along without 250 Catholic pre-ks.