Bill aiming to improve literacy passes subcommittee

The Florida House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee approved a bill from 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 bill will provide emergent literacy instruction to low-income, at-risk children.

Under proposal HB 153, students ages 2 and 3 in low-income areas of St. Lucie County will acquire a variety of behaviors and skills associated with successful reading and writing development.  

Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, said research has tied literacy to educational success as well as later in life and much of the behaviors needed are developed within the first five years of life. Lee also added that many of the parents in these areas lack literacy skills themselves to foster to their children and 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 had some concerns.

“To me the bill implicates these problems only reside in St. Lucie County and that VPK isn’t doing their job,” Pitts said. “This is the 4th 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.”  

Voluntary Pre-kindergarten programs are required to work with the literacy of students 4 years and older.

The bill was implemented in one county to gauge its effectiveness, Lee said in his closing remarks.

“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. Lee proposed the amendment that any employees involved with the program created from this bill must submit to a level 2 background check.

The bill has to pass through two more committees to be heard by the house and be passed into law.

Jonathan Valencia attended the meeting to receive extra credit for a college course, but left as an advocate for Lee’s bill.

“I’m originally from Dade County so I understand what this bill hopes to accomplish,” Valencia said. “A lot of the people where I’m from don’t read, don’t make their kids read so literacy isn’t a top priority.”