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Archive for Monday, December 27, 2010

Full-day kindergarten tuition in Lawrence faces fickle finances

Barbie Gossett, a kindergarten teacher at Woodlawn School, works with her class during a reading exercise. From left are Luke Poloncheck, Riley Honeyman, Danny Reagan, Joe Schmidt and Abi Krise.

Barbie Gossett, a kindergarten teacher at Woodlawn School, works with her class during a reading exercise. From left are Luke Poloncheck, Riley Honeyman, Danny Reagan, Joe Schmidt and Abi Krise.

December 27, 2010

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Full-day kindergarten at Woodlawn

Jeanne Fridell, principal at Woodlawn, explains the benefits of providing full-day kindergarten. The school, at 508 Elm in North Lawrence, is one of eight in the Lawrence school district to offer the program. Included in the video are Barbie Gossett and her kindergarteners at Woodlawn. Enlarge video

Full-day kindergarten gives students more time to learn in class, more chances to get along with others and more exposure to their school’s building, responsibilities and routines that will become part of their academic lives for the next 12 years and, perhaps, beyond.

And that’s not all.

“There’s a lot less crying,” reports Jeanne Fridell, principal at Woodlawn School, one of eight elementaries in the Lawrence school district with full-day kindergarten. “We don’t have that anymore. It’s a lot less crying, and a lot more laughter.”

Yet while administrators, school board members and many parents agree that offering full-day kindergarten throughout the entire Lawrence school district would be a great idea, few — if any — see much chance of getting the job done anytime soon.

Welcome to the world of financial reality: The program now costs the district about $500,000, all of it financed through revenues restricted to be spent on helping so-called “at-risk” students because of their financial or other demographic characteristics.

Adding full-day kindergarten at the other seven elementary schools where half-day classes are offered would cost another $450,000 on teachers alone, plus another $200,000 or so for materials and furnishings.

That’s real money, at a time when the district doesn’t expect to receive any more money for the next academic year. The standing fear is that board members and administrators will be forced to endure another round of cuts when compiling their budgets, just as they did this past year when they eliminated jobs and cut programs to prevent closing schools while reducing expenses by $4.6 million.

Difficult balance

This upcoming budget season, administrators foresee a reduction in revenues that “easily could be another $3 million to $4 million,” said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer.

Any calls for adding full-day kindergarten services must be balanced against such expectations for reduced revenues, said Rick Doll, district superintendent. And that’s true even if there’s finally room in all elementary schools, as expected, once sixth-graders move up into new middle schools for next year.

“Preliminary figures show that (full-day kindergarten) produces some pretty promising results,” Doll said. “It looks like it’s working. We now have the room. Now it’s a matter of funding.”

He pauses.

“It doesn’t look promising,” he said.

But board members aren’t giving up hope.

As part of their ongoing redesign of the district’s schools — moving freshmen into high schools, turning junior highs into middle schools, and limiting elementaries to kindergarten through fifth grades — board members are pressing administrators to take fresh looks at all programs, to see which ones are the most effective and most efficient.

If full-day kindergarten ends up rating among the district’s best investments — by helping improve academic achievement long-term for students, especially among at-risk groups — then perhaps it could receive money previously channeled to other programs that might be deemed less effective.

Tuition time?

Or the district could move to charge some parents tuition for full-day kindergarten. Doll said that a “sliding scale” could be established, allowing students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at all schools to receive full-day kindergarten for “free,” while other parents could choose to pay tuition to have their children attend such full-day classes.

That would be a switch from the current practice. Right now, only students in eight schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney, Prairie Park, Schwegler and Woodlawn — have access to full-day kindergarten, because each of those schools has a relatively high number of students who receive free and reduced-price lunches. That means all students, regardless of economic standing, in those schools have access to full-day kindergarten.

But what if students who didn’t qualify for subsidized lunches were able to enroll in full-day kindergarten only if they paid tuition, on a sliding scale? Then the district could redirect some of those dollars — both received through tuition, and saved by reducing allocations — to other schools, where the same standards could be applied.

Then all 15 elementary schools would have full-day kindergarten, the thinking goes, with some families paying extra while others would not.

“That’s a political change,” Doll said. “It’s a political move, and we’d have to engage our communities and make sure everybody understands.”

Board members haven’t decided to move in that direction, although they intend to discuss the idea as legislators convene in Topeka and the district’s plans for next year take shape.

“There are a lot of people out there that still think that kindergarten is just learning to draw straight lines and color between the lines and whatever,” said Mary Loveland, who has spent 20 years on the Lawrence school board. “There’s a curriculum in there, things that need to be learned. And it’d sure be nice to have a whole day to do it — for every child.”

Comments

Jeanne Cunningham 3 years, 11 months ago

“There’s a curriculum in there, things that need to be learned." This makes me so angry. That is what parents are for and what many of us did and do. Mandatory education is a good thing, but parents should NOT be forced to send their children to full day attendance until/unless they choose to do so. Let them be kids as long as possible.

For those who have no choice and/or for kids who have already been in all day daycare sorts of situations, fine. But, for those families where parents have been able OR made extra effort to be with their young children, the choice to ease those kids into the all day away from home should still remain.

Let them stay kids as long as possible.

EarthaKitt 3 years, 11 months ago

Good golly. Sounds like somebody's kindergarten teacher was a totalitarian. Maybe you should home school. Regardless, I think you're off the hook until first grade. So simmer down.

Kansas Education Statute #: 72-1111 Chapter: 72 SCHOOLS Article: 11 SCHOOL ATTENDANCE, CURRICULUM AND ACCREDITATION Title: Compulsory school attendance; exemptions. Text: (a) Subject to the other provisions of this section, every parent or person acting as parent in the state of Kansas, who has control over or charge of any child who has reached the age of seven years and is under the age of 18 years and has not attained a high school diploma or a general educational development (GED) credential, shall require such child to be regularly enrolled in and attend continuously each school year ....

Amy Shanks 3 years, 11 months ago

I get really frustrated by the SAH moms who put all other parents down because they feel they are doing the better job. Teaching your children can be done in the evenings, and on the weekend, not only between the hours of 8-3. Not everyone has the choice to be home all day, and we are all doing the best we can. I work for a school district, and there is a lot even kindergarten students need to know before moving on to 1st grade, including Handwriting without Tears, and the Animated Alphabet, which are available in the kindergarten curriculum, and not necessarily taught at home by the parents. So, if your children don't know this material, they are already behind when they enter 1st grade. I have seen the benefits of all all day kindergarten program, both academically and socially. I hope Lawrence is able to get this going. So get off your soapbox and open your mind!

geekyhost 3 years, 11 months ago

Those of us inferior parents who prefer to have our kids attend the full day kindergarten in spite of having a stay at home parent were, in fact, given a choice in the matter. At least I remember being offered a half day program if that's what we preferred, but being the total meanies that we are, we chose to force them to grow up with things like learning the exact same curriculum that they'd be learning in the half day program, only with more time to learn it.

KU_cynic 3 years, 11 months ago

What is the potential cost of expanding kindergarten relative to the aggregate budget spent on non-academic activities -- especially sports but also administration?

I can't see how the school district should charge a dime for kindergarten "tuition" while it is paying for football and basketball coaches and bloated administration and such.

Our country is facing a sputnik-like moment in terms educational abilities of our kids and its effect on economic competiveness, and our spending priorities should reflect that.

clovis_sangrail 3 years, 11 months ago

I would agree. Until such a time as the foorball and basketball teams are selling cookies to meet their expenses like the music and drama kids have to, I really do not want to hear about school district budget problems.

DennisAnderson 3 years, 11 months ago

Baseball and softball parents also have to do their own fund-raising to keep the programs going. They've been doing it for years.

KU_cynic 3 years, 11 months ago

So you're telling me that baseball and softball are 100% off USD 497's budget (facilities maintenance, coaches' salaries and benefits, travel budget, etc.)? Fact check that, will ya?

I say make non-academic activities 100% weaned of public funds before charging families for academics.

I see no ethical alternative.

clovis_sangrail 3 years, 11 months ago

And is that how the two new football facilities were paid for -- with the proceeds from the sale of baked good and mediocre greeting cards?

My kids have to pay for their own costumes when they are in a drama production, and we also paid for dry cleaning the choir tux. Are the parents of the football and basketball players paying for their own uniforms, plus the cleaning? Do they pay for their own transportation to road games? I know we'll be paying for any choir road trip.

And I sure that drama and music are not the only non-athletic programs that have been cut to the bone.

I would be interested in seeing just how much of the football and basketball budget is paid for with fund raisers.

jackson5 3 years, 11 months ago

Shame that some sports must do more fund-raising than others - the district leaves the allocation of funds up to the princ. and school athletic directors. See 11/22/10 board minutes, page 5, third paragraph. http://www.usd497.org/AboutUs/SchoolBoard/Agenda/2010.11Archives/20101213d/01minutes.pdf

As for the total budget for extras at the secondary level: $1,199,652 comes from the general budget (plus the student fees). Of this, less than $200,000 is for music and drama (or around 15% of the total budget). The $1,199,652 is strictly wages and misc. expenses and does not include capital outlays, interest expense on debt, maintenance, insurance, and utilities on facilities.

mom_of_three 3 years, 11 months ago

I know basketball and football players who sell cards and other items to afford expenses for their team. So I think the budget cuts have hit everyone, don't worry..

walkthehawk 3 years, 11 months ago

I hope a half-day choice is preserved for those of us who don't feel that five year olds are best served by a full day in a classroom. I have no problem with a pay-for-K option--but please let it be an option--there are a number of children for whom this isn't a good idea, mine included.

Scattered 3 years, 11 months ago

Chic, I so agree with you. As a mother of three, and grandmother of 2 (in Lawrence) it is my belief that all day kindergarten = all day babysitting service - for free! PARENTS are the ones who should be working with their little ones....just like my daughter is doing, like I did, like my mother did. I do realize that for many daycare is not an option, and my heart aches for those who must leave their children all day. BUT, as Chic as stated, the day-long classes should be optional for those who can and want to keep their child a child.

I have many friends who teach, and I hear terrible stories of those in all-day classes who cannot stay awake; the serious behavior problems. Five year olds often need assistance in their bathroom time - who is going to be there? Scary thought. I just imagine those little ones trying to carry a tray and eat a lunch amid all the commotion....

My four year old grandson lives in an all-day district, and he already has his plan for attending a half day school (he even knows how long it will take to drive there). I pray his wishes come true.

Deb Engstrom 3 years, 11 months ago

Those kids whose parents don't think they are "ready" for a full day are the very ones who need it. Lots of maturity -- decision making skills, social skills, problem solving skills -- are taught in kdg. along with the academic curriculum, of course. Those are not things that can be taught well in isolation at home.

If you think it will be a bad experience and convince the kids that it will be, then it probably will be.

Peacemaker452 3 years, 11 months ago

Yes, turn your children over for indoctrination as soon as possible and for as long as possible. There is no way you parents can teach them anything the state needs them to know. Only agents of the state can properly teach decision making, problem solving, social skills and maturity. Look how well they have done over the last 30 years. Make sure you keep them away from their grandparents too. Don’t want any of those old, evil, non-progressive ideas to creep in. Maybe you should just drop your newborns off at an “educational camp” after your state funded hospital stay and the government will take care of it from there.

geekyhost 3 years, 11 months ago

Yes, that's exactly why we sent our kids to an all day program. We needed a babysitter. It had absolutely nothing to do with the changes that they have made in the kindergarten curriculum (for good and for bad, frankly) but with our own laziness. We also don't need to look at evidence to see if something is effective, we can just think about whether or not it's how we handled it when we were kids. Thanks so much for clearing that up with a broad and sweeping generalization.

PS - the lunch room is very well organized and separated by grade. Kindergarteners do have the occasional potty accident, but they're prepared for it (just as with the half day programs,) and my kids didn't suddenly stop being children when they turned five.

Confrontation 3 years, 11 months ago

Wow. I hate to see some of you parents when your children reach college age. You'll be freaking out about letting them experience the world, because, surely, 18 is far too young to be an adult. Children are still children when they go to school. The real problem is that you want to baby them rather than letting them start to learn some sort of independence. These are the same children who develop social anxiety because mom is freaking out about everything.

Christina Hoffman 3 years, 11 months ago

Having half day for only half the schools in lawrence is stressfull for us parents who live in half day school zones but our children have the actual need to be in full day and can not recieve this option cause of where we live. Unless we transfer, which creates other problems. for example you dont find out till almost the first day of school if your transfer was approved, for my special needs child this is a problem she had already met with the "team" and got to know them at her home school so all are aware of each other. if she was transfered it would have been all new and the "team" would not have gotten a heads up. Which is never good, everyone should have plenty of notice when dealing with special needs children. We feel all day K should definatly be an option everywhere. I agree though we shouldnt have to pay extra until they district stops paying for extra activities like basketball and football, make them do bigger and better fund raisers.
For the side of the other parents who dont feel that their child is ready for all day, it should be your right to only have your child go half day, However all day should always be offered through out the district not just "at risk schools" . Just because i live in a nice neighbor hood and can afford to feed my children does not mean the district should take away my childs right have to the best education possible.

geekyhost 3 years, 11 months ago

You had me until you got into neighborhood snobbery. "At risk" schools are determined by statistical averages, and some include both areas with apartment complexes and nice old Lawrence homes. Just because someone lives in a full-day school area doesn't mean they don't live in a nice neighborhood or can't afford to feed their kids. kthxbai.

PS - I do totally agree that full day should be an option for everyone. I'd be willing to pay extra tuition for it, but I think they should waive tuition in the case of special needs students.

Christina Hoffman 3 years, 11 months ago

Thats not what i ment by that. They are using the numbers based on who recieves free or reduced lunches to determine which schools should get the full day K. I was not implying anything more then that. We live in a college neighbor hood in west lawrence so i for sure am not one to talk about snobbery. I ment only that the school districts ideas of who should get full day K is insane, just because their parents quilfy for free or reduced lunches does not mean their children are at risk any more then mine at getting a good start to school.

geekyhost 3 years, 11 months ago

Socioeconomic status is a good predictor of school success in this country. I do understand why, if they couldn't have full day everywhere, they picked the statistically poorest students first. It's expedient. That doesn't mean it's a 100% predictor of every single student who is going to need extra help.

budwhysir 3 years, 11 months ago

So, the economic question is.... do we require ALL kids in kindergarten to attend full days of class, teaching them for an entire day, thus getting them ready for early release and late arrival days of high school????

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