May 20, 2004
The Honorable Jeb Bush
PL 05, The Capital
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Re: Urge Signing of HB 821
Dear Governor Bush:
We urge you to sign HB 821, allowing its positive provisions to serve as a foundation
to build upon next year and beyond. Though imperfect, this legislation contains
strong accountability provisions for private-sector providers participating in
this program. The accountability provisions, more protective of children than
any other scholarship program in our state, include a requirement for
literacy-based curriculum, accreditation and Gold Seal language, pupil-teacher
ratios, teacher credentialing, assessments for kindergarten students and
consequences for providers whose students do not score above average on
measurements over a two-year period.
We share many of the reservations expressed recently by you and other advocates of this
program. Of particular concern is the
reduced UPK day of 3.0 hours, the lack of a contingency plan for children to
transition to an afternoon-program and transportation provisions, all of which
adversely impact accessibility for poor-working parents.
Our representative on the State UPK Advisory Council, Sr. Roberta Bailey, OSB,
recommended that a UPK program provide a full 6.0 hour day. We realize that a full-day program will be a
fiscal challenge, but we would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the
executive branch and legislative leadership for a longer day and transportation
provisions so UPK will be more accessible for at-risk children.
In this multifaceted legislation, our involvement mainly focused on protecting against
the state excessively entangling itself with religious programs and assuring
academic-related accountability of providers. We did not take a position on governance and funding transfers. However, if HB 821 were to become law, we
would welcome the opportunity to support new revisions to provide the executive
branch with the necessary authority to effectively and efficiently implement
funding of the UPK program.
If the legislation is vetoed, our great concern is that the accountability language
now supported by the private providers would be jeopardized. Absent this language, their participation
and ours is uncertain. Achieving this consensus last session was important ground gained because so many of the
children involved will be served in these private programs. It will be best to assure these provisions
remain and make other adjustments as needed.
Governor, we urge you to allow HB 821 to become law. Please consider that a veto will
likely create confusion as families register their preschool children next
January and February. The UPK legislation will be uncertain at that time and providers may not know whether
they will be able to participate in the program. The UPK program will be better served by keeping the good
provisions in HB 821. We pledge to work with you and legislative leaders to address remaining concerns.
Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to discussing this further.
D. Michael McCarron
cc: Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings