The free Pre-K classes won't be up and running this fall, but will be by 2005. Heidi Swanson's daughter Lola is two years old. That means in two years she'll be eligible for Florida's Pre-K programs set to begin in September of 2005.
Most Florida voters think it’s a good idea. The amendment for Pre-K passed by almost 75 percent. Now the challenge is getting it started. The plan calls for using private daycares to fill the need. There is concern that there may not be enough facilities or qualified staff to get the program started.
"My biggest concern is capacity, that we don't have enough facilities nor do we have enough child development workers,” says Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings.
Some 90,000 four-year-olds are expected to take part in Pre-K during the first year. The plan at this point involves using child development associates, not classroom teachers and requiring the students to get four hours of education a day. Sen. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz says the state needs to use classroom teachers as soon as possible.
There is another concern when you consider the state will be educating an additional 90 thousand kids, finding the money to do it. Sen. Les Miller is concerned that the program might end up getting shortchanged.
"We cut the education budget tremendously last year; $40 million from the state universities no new money for community colleges and also K-12. If we use new money, where is it going to come from?" states Sen. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
It's not clear at this point what Pre-K will cost or where the money will come from. While many parents are looking forward to it, there are still many concerns about getting it started.
Since the state plans to use qualified child care workers, instead of teachers, there will be an increased demand for community colleges to offer more child care development programs.