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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Key lawmakers consider watering down Florida pre-kindergarten program

12

March

Prek Advocates had such high hopes when Floridians approved a universal, high-quality prekindergarten program for all 4-year-olds back in 2002.

It's been downhill ever since. You just had to know things wouldn't meet expectations as soon as the bureaucrats removed the "universal" from the program name and stopped talking about "high quality," instead emphasizing the voluntary nature of the classes.

There's yet to be a solid measure of student gains, as no one has followed through with requests to require assessments of children as they enter to see how much they've progressed by the end. Hence the limited interest in the annual pre-k ratings guide that the state recently updated.

And a push to require higher credentials for pre-k teachers has gained little traction over the years despite calls from groups as wide ranging as the Children's Coalition and the Florida Council of 100. Education and business advocates have argued there's no better investment than in early education, to no avail.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that, in its drive to save some money, the Florida Legislature is eying VPK. Senate Education Appropriations chairman Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, revealed this week that leadership is proposing to increase the number of children per instructor permitted in a classroom.

By changing the 10:1 ratio to 12:1 -- or 24:2 if a school prefers -- the savings could run into the millions statewide, and over $6,000 per classroom, Wise said. As a trade-off, he suggested, the rules would require the second teacher in a classroom to have a child development associate certification, which isn't the case now.

And to think. Florida's student-teacher ratio has been one of the few things it gets high marks for

(Times file photo)

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:53am]

    

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