Meeting to address universal pre-K

Area legislators to answer questions

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 11:42 p.m.
The area coalition that supervises subsidized child care is inviting interested Alachua County residents to attend a town hall meeting tonight addressing the constitutional mandate that won free, universal pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds by fall 2005.
"There's a lot of questions about universal pre-K that child-care providers are starting to have," said Vicky Stark, administrative coordinator of the Alachua County Coalition for School Readiness.
An information session on universal pre-K is at 5 p.m. in the auditorium of Eastside High School, 1201 SE 43rd St.
The town hall meeting begins at 7 p.m., and the League of Women Voters will moderate a question-and-answer session between the audience and invited area legislators.
Stark said state Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua, and state Rep. Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, are expected to attend.
"We would like child-care providers to bring their questions and concerns to the local legislators," Stark said.
In November 2002, voters approved an initiative to create universal, voluntary pre-K.
State lawmakers are expected to decide the program's design in the legislative session that begins in March.
Though the final say belongs to legislators, the State Board of Education has drafted recommendations for what the program should look like.
The recommendations call for a four-hour day, nine months a year and a maximum class size of 20 children with two staffers.
The state would fund the program at $16 a day per child or $2,880 yearly at an annual cost of $262 million for the expected 90,000 4-year-olds not already being served.
Universal pre-K would benefit most parents, including the "working poor," who cannot afford private preschool but earn too much to qualify for subsidized state school readiness or federal programs.
"I think it's going to change the face of child care as we know it," Stark said.

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