Finding degreed teachers for pre-k not so tough, group argues
The Children's Campaign certainly doesn't give up without a fight.
For nearly four years now, the Tallahassee based group has argued passionately about the need to have teachers with 4-year degrees in early education teaching the state's prekindergarten students. With almost dispassionate regularity, Florida lawmakers and even some folks who run pre-k programs have said finding the teachers would be too tough - especially as schools endeavor to meet the class-size reduction amendment.
Not deterred, the Children's Campaign asked the Florida State University Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy to look at data from the Florida Department of Education with one question in mind: Could the state meet teacher capacity levels for all pre-k to be taught by degreed teachers within five years? (That's the time frame proposed in identical House and Senate bills [HB 741/SB 702] that don't get heard.)
The group got its answer this week, and it looks to be a solid "yes."
The FSU center reported that Florida's current Voluntary Pre-K enrollment is about 120,000 children in 8,846 classrooms. For a three-hour day per program, that requires somewhere between 4,423 and 5,000 teachers. Already, 2,770 of the pre-k teachers have degrees. "Based on those figures, it is projected by FSU that only 1,653 to 2,230 new teachers would be needed over the next five years," the Children's Campaign states in a release.
That's a far cry from the 12,000 teachers that many lawmakers contend the pre-k program needs.
Could the supply meet the demand? Sure, the FSU center and Children's Campaign contend. More than 14,500 teachers are expected to graduate from Florida's colleges and universities by 2013. Another group of teachers are expected to come to the state from elsewhere, and recent retirees might be interested in supplementing their income too.
"We're already more than half way toward capacity," Children's Campaign president Roy Miller told the Gradebook. "We're just blown away by the numbers. The whole argument against degreed teachers ... is bogus."
He suggested that the state agencies in charge of VPK oversight should stop simply marketing the program and instead work to make it be the "high quality" system that voters approved in 2002. It shouldn't take an advocacy group to figure out what the state's numbers say, Miller said.
For more information, see the Children's Campaign pre-k web site, www.qualityprek.org.