Leader, or laggard?
Pre-K Now, a national advocacy group for early education, offered some divergent views on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in its annual Leadership Matters report, which it released today. On the one hand, it counted Crist among the nation's missed opportunities - governors who talked a good game but didn't follow through. The group noted that Crist pledged in his campaign to support the voters who mandated high quality universal prekindergarten, yet in his State of the State address and his budget, he didn't mention the program or provide new money for it. "If Governor Crist truly wants to improve Florida’s public education system and honor the will of the voters, he must champion and adequately fund VPK," the report states.
In a separate news release about the report, though, the organization applauded Crist for recent comments to the St. Petersburg Times and, later, at a public gathering in Tallahassee, that pre-k teachers should have four-year degrees. That's something Pre-K Now cites as a hallmark of a strong prekindergarten program. Executive director Libby Doggett expressed hope that Crist will act on that instinct. "Forward-thinking leaders understand that pre-k changes the course of children's lives for the better and that this translates into gains for their cities and states," Doggett said. "We hope Governor Crist's recent comments reflect a growing commitment to pre-k so that he can join the majority of governors who are making these early educational opportunities a priority."
Doggett held a conference call with governors Mike Easley of North Carolina and Elliott Spitzer of New York to cheer the growing attention being paid to prekindergarten. This year marked a milestone, she said, in that 29 governors had included pre-k as a policy or budget priority, up from 11 just three years ago. That leadership matters if 3- and 4-year-olds are to get the early education they need, she said: "Pre-k education should be available to any family that wants it. ... Pre-k helps establish positive trajectories for the rest of their lives."