Topeka The State Board of Education on Tuesday recommended the Legislature fund all-day kindergarten, and in a split vote the board urged changes aimed at starting more charter schools.
"Kindergarten is one of those long-term, well-proven routes to making sure kids are ready to succeed in school, so I'm very enthusiastic about it," Bill Wagnon, a Democratic board member whose district includes Douglas County, said after the unanimous vote.
Some Kansas districts already offer all-day kindergarten, but many don't. Under the state funding formula, kindergartners are counted only as half a student; the remainder of all-day costs are borne by the local district.
Under the board's recommendation, schools that choose to offer all-day kindergarten would receive full funding from the state for every student that attends all-day kindergarten. Those who attend for only half the day will still fall under the old guidelines.
The proposal comes with a price tag of $77 million to implement the program. But board members suggested actual costs would probably be lower, saying it's unlikely all Kansas kindergartners would enroll in the program's first year.
In November the Lawrence school board approved creation of a task force to study the return of all-day kindergarten in the district.
Lawrence had all-day kindergarten but cut it three years ago because of budget problems, Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman said Tuesday.
"All-day kindergarten is one of my highest priorities," he said. "I would like to see it in all our schools. And it's something that parents seem to be interested in."
The State Board of Education also voted 6-4 Tuesday to recommend easing the startup process for charter schools.
Current rules require charter school proposals to be approved by a local district's board of education. If the request is denied, the appeal is heard by that same board.
Under the proposed law, charter school proponents would be able to appeal to the State Board of Education or a group appointed by the board. The local district would be responsible for funding the charter, regardless of who granted it.
Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, an outspoken supporter of charter schools, said the state board would only overrule local board decisions in rare circumstances.
"This really is a means of providing that avenue for appeal to guard against any arbitrary rejection of the charter proposal," Corkins said.
Wagnon voted against the measure, saying it would create problems for school districts that don't have the resources to fund a charter school.
"I think the whole charter school effort is misguided," Wagnon said. "I think we need to work within the existing school systems. : We have this huge list of innovations out there that schools have been anxious to implement, but they've never had the funds for it."
Those joining Wagnon with "no" votes were Janet Waugh, D-Kansas City, Sue Gamble, R-Shawnee, and Carole Rupe, R-Wichita. The six members who voted for the proposal were John Bacon, R-Olathe, Connie Morris, R-St. Francis, Kathy Martin, R-Clay Center, Kenneth Willard, R-Hutchinson, Iris Van Meter, R-Thayer, and Board Chairman Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City.
Weseman said charter school decisions should be made by local boards.
"The best decisions for kids locally are made by the local board, not by a state body," Weseman said. "We don't have a problem with supporting good educational ideas. We have a problem with people from a distance telling us what to do in Lawrence."
The state board's recommendations will now go to the Legislature for consideration.