Parents hoping to get their four-year-old enrolled in the state’s first free pre-kindergarten program are hitting some unexpected hurdles.
The rush is on to fill out registration forms. Even for parents who've already pre-registered, there’s no guarantee that a slot will be available for your child this fall.
When Patti Kilgore heard about the state’s plans to pay for free pre-kindergarten for all four-year-olds, her faith-based school quickly signed up. All 12 slots filled immediately.
"We’ve had parents call almost desperately wanting to find a place for their child this year, and apparently they’ve found that we’re one of the few that are doing it, and have called over here and we have a waiting list," said Celebration Baptist Preschool's Patti Kilgore.
Only about 3,500 pre-k providers have asked to participate in the program statewide. That’s far short of the space needed for the estimated 150,000 kids expected to register. Plus, parents who pre registered this spring now have to officially register and prove their child is eligible.
Gladys Wilson heads the state Office of Early Learning. We asked her if Florida will be ready when the program starts in August, and she admits there will be bugs to work out.
“This first year’s going to be a challenge for sure. We know that. Somebody gave me an expression; you know, nobody said it’s going to be easy, it’s just going to be worth it," said Wilson.
Every school district in Florida will have to have a pre-k program up and running by next summer, but that’s little consolation for parents who were counting on getting their four-year-old into a free pre-k program this fall.
No one knows for sure how many children will show up or whether there will be enough slots. Your best bet is to sign up now, but know your child may not get in until next summer.
Public service announcements encouraging parents to sign up for pre-k have been running on TV and radio stations statewide since last week.