Fla. Governor Outlines Major Initiative for Disadvantaged

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Gov. Bob Martinez of Florida plans to ask lawmakers to fund a $35-million initiative to address the educational and social needs of the state's disadvantaged children.

Known as the care program--for Children At Risk Embraced--the initiative would dramatically expand preschool services and increase the availability of before- and after-school care in elementary schools.

It would also provide for more school volunteers, create pilot "Saturday programs" in elementary schools, and increase funding for existing dropout-prevention and merit-schools programs.

"The goal of my care program is quite simple," Governor Martinez, a former schoolteacher, said in disclosing the plan at a Jan. 27 press conference. "[It is] to help Florida youngsters arrive at school each morning fully ready to learn, and to give them a more meaningful education once they pass through the schoolhouse doors."

Funding Requests

Mr. Martinez said he would seek the following amounts for the educational portions of the program:

$20 million for preschool services--an increase of $18.3 million, or about 1,100 percent, over this year's funding.

$4.2 million for migrant education, a 47 percent increase that would enable the state to serve half of all migrant 3- and 4-year-olds.

$924,000 for school volunteers, a 120 percent increase.

$1 million for before- and after-school programs in elementary schools, a 100 percent increase.

$1 million for a new program to provide Saturday services in a limited number of elementary schools.

If the care program is enacted, Mr. Martinez said, Florida "will begin to return to the old-fashioned notion of the school as a community center, ... a place for young and old alike to spend their time, ... to enjoy themselves, ... and to contribute."

He said he would discuss elements of the program aimed at combating child abuse, hunger, and other social problems in the months ahead.

The program will include the departments of education, health and rehabilitative services, and labor, as well as local agencies, he said.

The Florida legislature is scheduled to open its 1988 session on April 5. Mr. Martinez is expected to unveil the remaining elements of his budget request later this month.--lo

Vol. 07, Issue 20

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