Our View: All-day kindergarten worthy of funding

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Editorial Board, Sept. 25, 2011, to January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Funding a full-day kindergarten program for Steamboat students would be an excellent use of Steamboat Springs Education Fund dollars, no matter what some School Board members seem to think. We hope Superintendent Brad Meeks moves forward with the funding request and that his board members ultimately support it if the Fund Board provides the estimated $240,000 it would cost to make all-day kindergarden tuition-free for local families next year.

Full-day kindergarten is beneficial to children and their families. It provides a structured learning environment and important social interaction for 5-year-olds, preparing them for success in the school years to follow.

While Steamboat has some exceptional day care facilities that provide similar experiences, they can be cost-prohibitive for many families. The recent 2011 Self Sufficiency Standard for Colorado report calculated by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy revealed that child care costs for a Routt County family of four increased by 35 percent from 2008 to 2011 — from $1,703 per month to $2,295.

Partly in response to the cost of child care, the Steamboat Springs School District began offering full-day kindergarten in 2008. Previously, only half-day kindergarten was available to families. Like most issues, it comes down to funding. The state of Colorado provides funding for school districts to provide half-day kindergarten programs. Districts must pick up the tab on anything beyond a half-day program. In Steamboat, families who opt to keep their kids in the full-day kindergarten program are billed $2,349 each year. Parents have the option to pay the full amount at the beginning of the school year or to pay it in monthly or quarterly installments.

Since the program’s inception, the district has had issues collecting tuition money from some families. Two years ago, the district used a collection agency to recoup $2,969 in unpaid tuition from several families of all-day kindergarten students. The cost of the all-day program went up this year because the district had to hire another kindergarten teacher as a result of increased enrollment.

Meeks said using Fund Board dollars to eliminate tuition costs for participating families would level the playing field and make the kindergarten program economically equal for everyone. We agree. We pushed for the district to find a way to fund all-day kindergarten back when it first started the program. The public education system is predicated on providing fair and equal footing for all children, regardless of socioeconomic background.

On Monday, some School Board members argued that funding all-day kindergarten shouldn’t come at the expense of small class sizes or that it wouldn’t be fair to some families if the Fund Board didn’t continue to pay for all-day kindergarten in future years.

Those arguments aren’t good enough. The benefits of all-day education programming for kindergartners is well-documented. Even if class sizes were impacted by all-day kindergarten funding — and there’s no reason to believe they would be — studies are far less clear on the ideal class size versus having larger classes with higher-quality teachers.

Finally, there’s no need to worry about whether the Fund Board would commit to more than one year of all-day kindergarten funding. If it gets funded this year, great. If it doesn’t happen next year, so be it. We expect the Fund Board to make decisions on a year-to-year basis. And in this instance, it has a chance to fund a program that significantly could impact more than 150 Steamboat families. That seems like a great use of revenues from the city’s half-cent sales tax for education.

Comments

John St Pierre 2 years, 10 months ago

Curious what the impact will be on private day care facilities.. if the school district offers it free why pay???? Why can it not be on a as need income basis???? instead of just anyone?????

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

Interesting article on technology in the classroom. So why is spending for tech in schools never evaluated for effectiveness in educating students?

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20120205,0,639053.column?track=rss

In 2009, the Education Department released a study of whether math and reading software helped student achievement in first, fourth, and sixth grades, based on testing in hundreds of classrooms. The study found that the difference in test scores between the software-using classes and the control group was "not statistically different from zero." In sixth-grade math, students who used software got lower test scores — and the effect got significantly worse in the second year of use.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

Oops, slight error above.

Why doesn't our local school district ever evaluate tech for educational effectiveness?

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James Earley, MCSE 2 years, 10 months ago

1/2 day kindergarten is an outdated post-ww2 concept that is based on mommy stays home and only daddy works. Those days are over. My opinion is for mandatory full day kindergarten nation-wide. Ed Fund Board - please consider this funding proposal for the other Routt County schools as well.

Wedel - that article you have referenced is a narrow minded, weakly supported viewpoint that in no way encompasses a global, post high school perspective.

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vanguy 2 years, 10 months ago

As a parent that personally funded 2 children to attend all day kindergarten within the first 3 years that it was available, I will be disappointed if the Education Fund Board invests $240,000 to provide this at no expense to parents in the future.

My position is based on the notion that this action will most certainly come at the expense of other programs that would benefit a broader range of students across all grade levels.

All day kindergarten certainly provided our children a great head start, but only because it was combined with very involved parenting outside of the school day. Our out of pocket cost was $50 per week, per child. The school system even provided us a year-end receipt with their Tax ID, with the notion that we would deduct this as a qualified child care expense on our annual tax returns.

Prior to our children entering kindergarten, we used to pay $50 PER DAY for qualified childcare. The current cost of all day kindergarten is an incredible value to parents when put in the appropriate context.

We made this investment of time, money, and energy to provide our children a head start on their education. And it worked for our children's progress.

Yet we continue to observe a reduction in programs, staffing, and services that would help better meet the individual needs of every student in the system as they grow older.

Don't get me wrong...Steamboat's Public Schools are top notch, and my experience with every staff member has been nothing short of exemplary. We are very fortunate to have the quality of professionals that we have working in our schools.

But I do not believe the Education Fund Board should be contributing a penny to all-day kindergarten costs...much less a quarter million dollars.

Not because I don't believe in all-day kindergarten, but because it will be at the expense of other important educational programs.

This money should be invested in other programs that provide a broader impact on more students at all grade levels.

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exduffer 2 years, 10 months ago

Sorry vanguy, many people do not put their children in child care because of the expense. Looking at kindergarten as a deal is coming from YOUR persective.

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moonstone 2 years, 10 months ago

I think all day kindergarten is valuable and important for all children. The problem lies with Colorado and how the state views and prioritizes education. This is evident from the fact Colorado ranks at the bottom as compared to the rest of the country. Steamboat decided a few years ago to offer full day kindergarten knowing they had no funding source. Now the school wants the Fund board to pay. This is a families choice. I know most households are two parent working households so full day kindergarten is great but now it would be at the detriment to the rest of the students. Doesn't seem fair to me.

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livinginthetwilightzone 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't think I will vote for the 1/2 cent sales tax next time it comes up. It's always portrayed as a tax to help keep classroom sizes small, and every year my child has been in school, they just get larger. This school system is just like our City, it constantly spends money it doesn't have.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 10 months ago

I was never in a class of less than 28 to 30 but somehow managed to graduate from high school, get an engineering degree and earn a living for 51 years. Oh well, I guess things were different in the stone age.

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exduffer 2 years, 10 months ago

Well at least it is good to see that the president has given the kids of Colorado a "get out of school free" card.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

Boatbug, Please find the studies that show that technology in schools results in better test scores or better education.

New York Times some months ago reviewed an Arizona school district touted by Obama as having great technology and even that school district could not show that the technology made any difference.

The Education Dept and so on have consistently not been able to show that computers in the classroom enhance learning.

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James Earley, MCSE 2 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Wedel, In rebuttal to your prior post, I would first like to present the question – what is the purpose of public education? My opinion is that - it is not education for educations sake; it’s for preparing individuals to be productive members of society in a post high school world on a global scale. In fact that NEEDS to be the goal. I personally feel that placing so much emphasis on test scores is missing the point of what the ultimate goal of public school should be. And face the facts Scott; every aspect of the world we live in is submersed in computerized technology. Additionally, I would challenge you to name me an occupation that in some way is unaffected, or does not utilize, technology on a daily basis. Your final statement does have some misguided validity. However, in a seminar I attended 2 years ago presented by the Federal Department of Education, The State of Maine Department of Education, and The Federal Trade Commission, they stated as a fact that the reason to have computers and “smart boards” in the classroom was that it motivated the students to engage in the learning process as opposed to being a passive classroom attendee. The “proof” of the necessity for technology in classrooms is not in better test scores. It’s in the continued ability of the United States to be economically competitive on a global scale.

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Scott Glynn 2 years, 10 months ago

One aspect that has not been discussed is the fact that many of these children are not ready for full day Kindergarten. The jump from day care to Kindergarten can be daunting to a 5 year old child. Perhaps a hybrid of the 2 systems is available. 1/2 day for the first semester then as kids are transitioned into the "system" they go full day for the 2nd half of the year. This will give the school district a much smaller budget impact to fund, as well as continue to spread the cost to the user group. It continues to amaze me that when people are given options, and one of the options is not attainable for someone, then it becomes "unfair" and the sense of entitlement become prevalent in their arguments. Personal responsibility needs to have a seat at the table. If I am going to have a child, I need to be responsible by saving, sacrificing, whatever I need to do to ensure that I am able to place that child where I want to and not rely on the altruism of the public to foot the bill

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sledneck 2 years, 10 months ago

Scott, I agree with your statement of needing to provide for your own children. However, relying "on the altruism of the public..." as an alternative is an incorrect discription.

Altruism is a gift, given to others without coersion, expectation, or mandate.

Nothing government does is a product of altruism, compassion or benevolance, including education. It is a product of force purchased at the expense of people who were given NO CHOICE WHATSOEVER of whether or not to "contribute".

I realize this was not your main point. However, it is troubling to me how widespread the belief is that using OPM for a well-intentioned purpose makes the forceible collection of those funds "altruistic", "compassionate" or otherwise honorable.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. We need to stop whistling past the foolish notion that stated intentions excuse contrary results, dubious practices and denial of the rights and property of those who exist outside the scope of said intent.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

Mr Earley, I had an Apple ][ with a manual tape drive prior to floppy drives being available. I was a lead programmer writing assembly language code for an international data network that predated the internet. I know something about the value and importance of technology. (I am old school enough to wonder if MCSE after your name is an ironic joke because no one we would want to hire would admit being a MCSE).

Anyway, "it motivated the students to engage in the learning process as opposed to being a passive classroom attendee" is just doublespeak for "despite all the money being spent on it, we cannot show it makes a difference". A good teacher could be given a stick and a dirt floor to write on and can create an engaging learning process and not let students become passive classroom attendees.

It is not as if studies are unable to show that there are things under a school's control that does make a difference. Having teachers knowledgeable in the topic they teach matters. Small classes for the youngest students matters. Teachers having high expectations of students matters. Yes, there are things like educational level of a student's parents that are out of the school's control, but there are things that have been shown that makes a difference. A school can do things that are popular, but have no impact upon education, or they can focus on what is known to make a difference.

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