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Education board says pre-K plan misses target

By Associated Press
Published May 19, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - Stopping short of asking Gov. Jeb Bush to veto a prekindergarten bill, state Board of Education members expressed concern Tuesday over a measure they said is inconsistent with the quality pre-K program voters thought they'd get when they put it in the Constitution.

The board's action came a day after a business-backed research group, Florida TaxWatch, asked Bush to veto the bill the Legislature passed in the waning hours of the session.

The Board of Education, which is appointed by Bush, voted on a resolution that describes the measure (HB 821) as "inconsistent" with the proposal backed by the board and governor's office.

"Sometimes we need to do things right or not do them at all," said member Charles Garcia.

But members stopped short of recommending a veto.

"Let the governor be the governor," said board vice chairman T. Willard Fair of Miami.

Bush's spokeswoman, Alia Faraj, said the governor plans to meet with Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings to discuss what action to take on the bill.

"The governor has made it very clear that he has concerns with the bill" Faraj said. "It did not include all of the high standards the governor and lieutenant governor had recommended."

Although Education Commissioner Jim Horne voted for the resolution, he said he leaned toward starting the program this year. Lawmakers did dole out $7-million earmarked for a pilot summer program this June with a 10-1 ratio of pupils to teachers. That would be expensive to reproduce for the year-round program required to be in place for the 2005-06 school year.

The big hangup with many board members, Bush and others about the Legislature's bill is the three-hour class day, half what was originally recommended.

[Last modified May 19, 2004, 01:00:42]

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