Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, has signed into law the bill creating the state’s universal prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds.
The classes, which will be voluntary for parents, will begin next school year. Most will be run by private preschool and child-care providers, including churches. Voters approved the program—which will be open to any child, regardless of family income—in a 2002 statewide referendum.
As many as 150,000 children could enroll in the program, which will include three hours of daily instruction on pre-literacy and other school-readiness skills. Classes will have a maximum of 18 children. A more intensive program, with only 10 children per class, will also be offered during the summer.
Advocates for early-childhood education pushed for higher standards than were written into the final bill, including four hours of instruction and college degrees for teachers. The law requires some early-childhood education training for teachers, but outlines goals for strengthening those requirements in the future.
A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2005 edition of Education Week