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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida's pre-kindergarten program still needs improvement, chief advocate says



For nearly a decade now, former Miami Herald publisher David Lawrence has advocated long and loud for high quality early education and prekindergarten programs in Florida.

Now president of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, Lawrence told the Florida Board of Education this week that the state still has a long way to go.

"We do not have a high-quality program in Florida," Lawrence said, speaking of the state's voter-mandated Voluntary Pre-K program. "We do have 6,238 providers serving 165,000 4 year olds this year – or 71 percent of all 4 year olds – and a goodly number of those providers are offering high-quality programs, but a good number are not."

He detailed the many reasons why. There's no requirement ifor an "evidence-based curriculum." Teachers aren't required to have teaching degrees. Pre-student funding is too low. Read his full comments here.

Lawrence was direct, eloquent and specific. Many in the audience said he, more than some other speakers, hit the nail on the head of what's plaguing Florida's education system.

It all sounded so familiar. So we went back to our July 2007 weekend interview with Lawrence. And guess what? He had an almost identical critique of the state's early education programs four years ago. The only difference was, he was slightly more optimistic back then.

A few lawmakers have submitted bills to move in the direction Lawrence has pushed for. But nothing has happened. Question: Leaders let Lawrence speak, but are they listening? Are you?

[Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 9:44am]


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