Steamboat school district drops kindergarten funding request

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— The Steamboat Springs School District informed the Education Fund Board at a meeting Wednesday night that it has dropped its request for $240,630 that would have made the district’s full-day kindergarten program free to parents next school year.

Steamboat’s tuition-based kindergarten program charges parents $2,349 annually for full-day students and has 139 children enrolled at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools.

Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks said he decided to drop the grant request because of concerns the Steamboat Springs School Board raised about the proposal at its meeting earlier this month.

“We knew we would have to find ways to reduce (the overall cost) of our grant proposals to the Fund Board, and with the School Board having questions about the (kindergarten funding) request, it seemed likely it would be the first one taken away,” Meeks said.

At a Feb. 6 School Board meeting, member Wayne Lemley said he wouldn’t vote to accept the funding if it came at the expense of dollars to support smaller class sizes in Steamboat. Board member Robin Crossan added that it would be difficult to accept the grant without a guarantee the Fund Board would continue to support the program in the future.

The school district originally applied for $3 million in grant requests from the Fund Board, but the revised total they presented Wednesday night came in at $2.7 million.

Still, the grant commission asked the school district during the five-hour-long Wednesday meeting to significantly pare down its “effective classroom” grant request, by far its largest at $2.6 million.

As requested, the grant would support about 42 full-time district employees, who would work in programs ranging from special education to Title 1 reading.

“We don’t like these funding numbers because they are not realistic,” grant commission Chairman Stuart Handloff said, adding that the grant request was hundreds of thousands of dollars more than what the Fund Board projects it will have available in its budget for next school year.

According to the Fund Board’s latest financial report, it projects it will award about $2.5 million from Steamboat’s half-cent sales tax to Routt County school districts and community groups next school year. However, grants that were approved out of cycle bring that pot down to about $2.1 million.

The Steamboat school district last year received $2 million from the Fund Board, according to district Finance Director Dale Mellor.

“We 100 percent support the objectives of the school district and what they’re trying to accomplish, and we look forward to helping them accomplish that with funding in this cycle,” grant commission Co-chairman Glenn Airoldi said. “We simply want to ensure it’s done in a way the Fund Board can be accountable to the community for the way the dollars are being spent.”

With the exception of Steamboat’s “educator effectiveness” grant, the grant commission moved forward all of the applications it considered Wednesday night to a first reading with the Fund Board on March 7.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

autumnwitch 2 years, 10 months ago

It sounds to me like this fund board has too much power and is wielding it like the money belongs specifically to them. When the voters originally voted for the half-cent sales tax, it was with the belief that the money would go towards funding to keep class sizes small and for technology at Steamboat schools-now this money is being given away to "community" groups? Also, being given to other school districts, so now the money is not being used for the original intent. I know what the original intent was, that was why I voted for it! Perhaps it is time to get rid of this intermediary board that has dilusions of granduer and allow the school district to manage and budget it as it was intended to be used in the first place. Class sizes have continued to increase and this fund board is stuffing their ostrich heads into the sand and claiming the district can't use the money for it's intent. Help keep our kids in learning environments in the schools that are conducive to education-that is what it is all about.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

When the tax was on the ballot to be renewed there was also a question on the ballot whether it should be shared with nearby districts. Both passed. Reason for sharing is that parents of kids in other districts tend to shop in SB. And it wasn't fair that a SB sales tax was being spent in North Routt, part of SSSD, but not west or south Routt.

The Education Fund Board legally has to be separate from the school district so that it's funding is not counted as SB school district revenues which would result in less money from the State of Colorado.

I suspect the full day kindergarten was dropped because they could not show a significant educational benefit of increasing it to full day.

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Tatiana Achcar 2 years, 10 months ago

Scott, I respectfully disagree with your suspicion. They likely dropped the grant due to the politics of negotiation, not research-based evidence. In fact, credible research has existed for a long time that shows the importance of early education and intervention programs in the lives of children and the considerable and measurable impact they have on the children's ability to function as productive and self-sufficient citizens of society. Three hours a day of socialization and cognitive activities only brushes the surface of what every five-year old in this country needs to keep up with life, particularly for those who get no parental attention at home. It also does nothing to support working parents.

Dropping or saving $240K in early education just signifies, in pure economic terms, millions of dollars in tax-payer money going towards Title I, special education, ELL education, developmental therapies, and perhaps even law enforcement, diversion, juvenile court, probation, youth mentoring, detox, mental health, jails and prisons to mention some.

There is absolute no wisdom or reality in neglecting to fund proactive, preventive, asset- and research-based early education programs at a fraction of the cost that our community, state and country spend on partially and untimely rehabilitating inadequate students in elementary, middle and high school.

We are failing many of our children, purely and simply put.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

Tatiana, Well, I think the data is more clear that preschool and kindergarten are beneficial, but less clear that more than 3 hours makes a difference. My recollection of half vs full day kindergarten is that studies show there is minimal educational difference. Full day is often popular with parents as it reduces daycare costs and for a family with several kids in school, it is easier to manage their kids having the same schedule.

The data of what makes a difference is often at odds at what is popular. Small class size makes a difference for the little kids. A good teacher with a small class is likely to get better results than a better teacher with a large class. But high school students are better off with the better teacher with a large class then the good teacher with a small class. By the time they get to high school then students can learn from the teacher and from questions asked by other students.

In terms of effective use of $240K for early education then either paying for preschool for at-risk kids or additional tutors for at-risk young students should be more effective than full-day kindergarten.

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