Last week, Lawrence school officials said the chances of offering all-day kindergarten at each of the district's 15 elementary schools were between slim and none.
"The money's just not there," Supt. Randy Weseman said.
The district, he said, expects to receive an additional $2.8 million under the three-year, $466.2 million school funding plan that lawmakers approved last week.
Weseman had hoped for twice as much.
"It looks like we'll get an additional $700,000 for at-risk kids," he said. "Now that sounds like a lot, but when you spread it across the 3,300 at-risk kids in the district, you'll see it doesn't really go very far."
Because the $700,000 is earmarked for at-risk students - a term often applied to children living in households with incomes low enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches - it can be spent on all-day kindergarten.
But it doesn't have to be. And that means all-day kindergarten would have to compete with all the other funding demands for at-risk students.
It won't happen, Weseman said. "Even if you said, 'OK, we're going to take this $700,000 and put it all toward all-day kindergarten for at-risk kids and we're not going to do anything for the at-risk kids who aren't in kindergarten,' it's still not enough," he said.
Board members shared Weseman's prognosis.
"The other thing that's going on is we've been told we'd have to have a stand-alone, half-day program for parents who, for whatever reason, didn't want all-day," said board member Cindy Yulich.
"We were also told half-day kindergarten couldn't be compromised by all-day kindergarten," she said. "We couldn't offer art, for example, to the all-day kids and not to the half-day kids. In other words, the half-day kids couldn't miss out on anything."
Another nail in the coffin: A recent survey of parents of 551 kindergartners-to-be not considered at-risk found that while 73 percent wanted all-day kindergarten, only 46 percent were willing to pay the $240-per-month fee needed to cover the program's costs.
Board members said they're now exploring the possibility of offering all-day kindergarten at schools with the most at-risk students.
Kennedy and New York schools would be at the top of the list because 86 percent of each school's enrollment is eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. Cordley isn't far behind.
But board member Rich Minder said the problem of picking only two or three schools for all-day kindergarten was made more complicated by the 105 preschoolers - all of them at-risk - about to graduate from the East Heights Early Childhood Center, 1430 Haskell Ave.
"That's an all-day program," Minder said. "At the very least, we should make sure these kids have access to all-day kindergarten."
Not all of the East Heights graduates will attend Cordley, Kennedy or New York next year.
New York Principal Nancy DeGarmo said she was hopeful all-day kindergarten would happen at her school.
"It doesn't look good for 2006-07," she said. "But we're going to do everything we can to make this happen. We're looking at all our options."
Until 2001-02, five of the district's elementary schools - Cordley, Kennedy, New York, Riverside and East Heights - had all-day kindergarten. The rest had half-day kindergarten.
Budget pressures forced the district to cut all-day programs back to half-day in 2002-03.
Riverside has since been closed and East Heights converted to house the early-childhood center.