The Florida House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee approved a bill from D-Rep. Larry Lee Jr. that requires the Office of Early Learning to establish a 5 year Literacy Jump Start Pilot Project in St. Lucie County.
This project provided emergent literacy instruction to low-income, at-risk children.
Under the proposal HB 153, students ages two and three in low-income areas of St. Lucie County will receive early behavioral and skill opportunities that are associated with successful reading and writing development.
Lee voiced how research has tied literacy to educational success. Much of the behaviors needed are developed within the first five years of life. Many of the parents in these areas lack the literacy skills themselves to foster their children. As a result these children may find themselves trapped in the same poverty as their parents.
The committee unanimously passed the bill 12-0.
Brian Pitts, chairman of the political committee, Justice 2 Jesus, supported the bill, but raised questions of his own on the bill.
“To me the bill implicates these problems only reside in St. Lucie County and that the Voluntary Prekindergarten Educational program isn’t doing their job,” Pitts said. “This is the fourth time you all have seen this bill. We don’t need a pilot because VPK already does this, just move the age down to cover 2-3.”
The VPK was required to work with students 4 years and older.
Lee had a chance to address any concerns of citizens in his closing remarks before the vote.
“I would like to reply to Mr. Pitts, never did I imply VPK isn’t doing what he said they weren’t doing,” Lee said. “Many times we pass laws and bills only to find out they don’t work. With this 5 year pilot we will see the results and then can move statewide.”
The bill was also amended at the meeting as well. Lee proposed the amendment that any employees involved with the program created from this bill must submit to a level two background check.
“I’m originally from Dade County so I understand what this bill hopes to accomplish. A lot of the people where I’m from don’t read or don’t make their kids read, so literacy isn’t a top priority,” Jonathan Valencia said.
Valencia attended the meeting to receive extra credit for a college course, but left as an advocate for Lee’s bill. The bill has to pass through two more committee to be heard by the house and be passed into law.