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Bush Ponders Pre-K Bill

It's one that must be in place by fall of next year. Critics say the bill passed by lawmakers this year would short change both the kids and the parents who voted for the program.

Donna Randolph's four-year-old son goes to a private pre-kindergarten. Less than three hours a day is spent on actual class work, but Donna says that's plenty of time for little Connor.

"We have the alphabet that they take a different letter each week and bring in all the types of show and tell things, whatever that letter is that they're studying," Donna says.

But critics are blasting the three-hour-a day pre-k program lawmakers passed in the final minutes of this year's legislative session. They don't think the teacher credentials are tough enough and think other requirements are too vague or too weak.

"We're calling on the governor to veto the bill because it was very poorly crafted. We feel it would be important to take another stab at it, to redo this," says Leah Cook with Florida Children's Campaign.

Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings was involved in crafting the pre-k proposal from the beginning and she too was disappointed in the results. For one thing, she says lawmakers didn't put in enough money.

"There's no money in the bill. Therein lies part of the problem," says Jennings.

But timing becomes a problem if the governor does veto the pre-k bill. The Legislature would then only have a few months to put a statewide program for more than 70,000 children in place in time to start by fall of 2005.

Rep. Bev Kilmer, (R) Marianna, says, "Vetoing it would be a tremendous bind for school districts. This is too huge for them to throw together in just a matter of a few weeks if it waits until the next legislative session."

The Lt. Governor says Jeb Bush hasn't decided yet whether to sign or veto the pre-k bill. It could mean a special legislative session in the fall if he gives it the thumbs down. Once the governor receives the bill, he has 30 calendar days to decide whether to sign it or veto it.


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