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Florida Lawmakers Still Debating Free Pre-K Program

Teacher credentials and student-teacher ratios remain sticking points, and some parents worry the school day will be too short.

Jamel Williams is a mother of four including twin two-year-olds. She says a three-hour a day pre-kindergarten program lawmakers are considering wouldn't give her kids or her enough time.

“Before you run around, pay a light bill and get some groceries out of Publix it's time to go pick them up,” Jamel says.

Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas spearheaded the drive to provide quality pre-k programs for every four-year-old in Florida. He says he could live with the three or four-hour option as long as it meets high standards.

"We can't compromise on issues like teacher-to-student ratios, issues of teacher qualifications and school accreditation, those are critical issues," says Mayor Peneles.

But what kind of qualifications pre-k teachers will need is still being hashed out by lawmakers, and there's some concern what you voted on might not be what you get.

The governor's office originally wanted a 720-hour a year program. Now, one of the options is just 300 hours in the summer, but Jeb Bush remains hopeful at least the quality issues will be resolved.

Parents could have a chance to see for themselves as soon as this summer. The Senate version would start a pilot program in 10 counties if the house agrees.

The latest version of the pre-k bill is due to be released in a House committee meeting Friday. The pilot program proposed by the Senate would include Baker, Duval, Hillsborough, Martin, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Santa Rosa and Wakulla Counties.


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