Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008
- Bryna Larsen, publisher
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Mike Lawrence, city editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Eric Morris, community representative
- Paul Draper, community representative
Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or email@example.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs School Board should be commended for its efforts to implement an all-day kindergarten program, but district officials should postpone the start of the program until it can accommodate all children tuition-free.
School Board members said Monday they will move forward with the program for the start of the 2008-09 school year despite several significant obstacles, namely a lack of space to accommodate all the potential kindergartners and no set framework for how to fund the program or how much to charge families.
We think, as board member John DeVincentis said, that school officials can work out the space issue. It's the money question that concerns us the most.
District Finance Director Dale Mellor estimates a full-day kindergarten program will cost the district $360,000 a year. That sum includes additional staffing and class materials. The School Board voted unanimously for a tuition-based program to help offset the costs. Under state law, school districts receive funding only for half-day kindergarten; any additional costs must be covered by the individual districts.
Although the details are yet to be worked out, district officials are looking at tuition based on a sliding scale. Mellor used $16 a day in his cost estimates, but officials agreed tuition would almost certainly be higher. Board member Denise Connelly said the district previously has considered daily rates as high as $40 a day.
A recent parent survey revealed many families are willing to pay for all-day kindergarten, and even $40 a day would be significantly cheaper than what many nonprofit early childhood education facilities charge. But we're troubled by the idea of charging families additional fees for public education - particularly education that is generally agreed to be extremely beneficial for many young learners. What if enough scholarships aren't available for poorer families to send their children to all-day kindergarten? Should their children not reap the benefits of additional learning time? And should wealthier families be expected to further subsidize the public education of other families?
Our public education system is designed to provide fair and equal footing for all children, regardless of socioeconomic background. A tuition-based full-day kindergarten program flies in the face of that philosophy. If the Steamboat Springs community believes strongly in providing full-day kindergarten for the developmental and educational benefits it gives children, then we should find a way to fund the program out of existing district revenues or other sources. And we shouldn't implement it until there is room for all children to participate.
We can look to our South Routt neighbors as an example. The South Routt School District for years has offered all-day kindergarten at no additional cost to parents. Soroco officials said they pay for the program out of the district's general fund because it is a priority for the community.
With the rising cost of child care and the proven benefits of having kindergartners in a classroom setting for more than a couple hours a day, it appears Steamboat is ready to make it a similar priority. Our school district has options when it comes to funding, including contributions from the city's half-cent sales tax for education. Education Fund Board members are preparing to go to the voters for a tax renewal; the kindergarten issue could be used to help sell a November ballot question, much like the small class size issue did in 1993, 1996 and 1999. Funding help also could come from the state. Lawmakers and Gov. Bill Ritter have discussed state funding for all-day kindergarten programs, though such funding likely is a year or two away from becoming reality.
All-day kindergarten is a worthy program that will benefit our community's children and families. Let's find a way to fund it without charging families additional money.