Count Charlie in
Six of the past eight Florida governors, plus the widow of a seventh, say the state should require prekindergarten teachers to have four-year degrees. The current governor tells the St. Petersburg Times that he agrees. "How do you argue against having certified teachers? I don't want to make that argument," Gov. Charlie Crist said Monday. "I wasn't asked to sign onto the letter. I would have. I'd sign onto it today." As for budget concerns, he added, "The real negotiation on the money begins next week so there's great opportunity to tweak and modify and realize new priorities."
Identical bills in the House and Senate (HB 1103/SB 2506) would accomplish the goal. But legislative leaders had doubts that the measure would move anytime soon. It's a matter of money and teacher supply, they said. "I think everybody wants quality in pre-k," said Sen. Stephen Wise, chairman of the Education Pre-K-12 Appropriations Committee. "It's just a matter of how we really put the plan together so we don’t put ourselves in a bind."
Early education advocates expressed optimism at Crist's public stance. "Charlie has spoken passionately about following the will of the voter. He has spoken about high quality teachers," said Roy Miller, president of the Tallahassee-based Children's Campaign. "He has added up 1+1 and he knows it equals pre-k." But the past president of an association of child care providers questioned whether bachelor's degrees are the answer. "Do they need more than they’ve got now? Yes," said Danny Morris, past president of the Florida Association for Child Care Management. "We would like to see something between what is existing now, in the (child development associate) credential and the four-year degree."
Already, 22 of the 37 other states that offer state-funded prekindergarten require teachers to have bachelor's degrees, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
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