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Third time charm for ESOL teacher training plan?

Teachers of students learning English have seen the Senate's last-minute proposal to lower the number of hours required for teacher training before. Twice.

The Florida Department of Education asks for 300 hours of training for teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL. In 2007, state Sen. Stephen Wise, a Jacksonville Republican, tried to drop that to 60 hours, saying the requirement was driving teachers out of Florida. Teachers have to complete the extra training, often at their own expense, in addition to the 15 college credits -- about 300 hours -- required to become a reading teacher.

Miami-Dade, with its more than 57,000 ESOL students, was the only county to oppose the measure, with ESOL activists arguing that the extra lessons were necessary. Gov. Charlie Crist eventually vetoed the bill -- which Wise pushed again last year. A version made it through the House, lowering the 300-hour requirement to 180 hours, but an unhappy Wise let the bill die without a Senate vote.

The bill did not make it out of a committee and onto the floor this year. So Wise, the Senate chair of a compromise committee on the education budget, tried a different tack and snuck it onto the Senate's budget proposal Thursday as a pilot program to start in three school districts this fall.

"We're trying to get a happy medium for all parties," Wise said.

Critics say the plan is too hasty and would require money the state and school districts don't have. Will the House take the bait? Stay tuned.

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