TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson is urging parents to enroll their 4-year-old children in the state's free voluntary pre-kindergarten classes.

Robinson said on Wednesday that the program helps children develop essential skills to succeed in kindergarten and later life.

The school year already has started in some districts and classes will begin in the others through Aug. 29.

The state-funded pre-kindergarten classes are offered by private pre-schools as well as some public schools.

Children who will be 4 years old by Sept. 1 are eligible. A 540-hour program is available during the school year and a 300-hour program during the summer.

During the past school year, 81 percent of Florida's 4-year-olds participated. Enrollment has increased by 65 percent since 2006.

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Online: Florida pre-kindergarten program