Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Panel examining cost of kindergarten start-ups

The article below our commentary appeared in the Union Leader.

First legislators and educrats want to mandate kindergarten and than they will want to mandate preschool. But are both even necessary and are they effective and cost efficient? Research generally shows the answers to these questions is no.

Essentially what you get is a waste of tax dollars with almost all gains lost by the third grade.

References materials to view.

Research Disputes Benefits of Early Education

A Fresh Start for Head Start.

The United States ranks 23rd in education performance in the world, despite spending more than any other nation. Most nations do not have kids start school until age 7. Imagine the billions of dollars we would save every year if we increased the age of formal education.

Panel examining cost of kindergarten start-ups
State House Bureau Chief

Concord – A special legislative panel on education costs will pay special attention to the costs of starting up kindergarten programs in 11 school districts.

A subcommittee will look closely at how the state should help the handful of districts that don't now offer kindergarten as they join the the 140 districts in the state that do offer it.

The 11-member committee began work yesterday on figuring the cost of the state's new definition of an adequate education. That definition, which lawmakers adopted just a few months ago, makes kindergartens a mandatory program in all school districts for the first time.

The state Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the state has an obligation to define an adequate education, figure out its cost and fund it. The work toward determining the cost has to be finished by Feb. 1, 2008. Then the state will have to figure out how to raise the extra money to pay that cost.

Total spending on public schools in grades K through 12 amounts to about $2.4 billion a year. Estimates are that the adequacy definition will require the state to supply about half that total. Current state funding for adequacy is about $800 million, significantly below the expected new cost.

Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, pointed out that the law requires kindergarten programs to be in place by next September, but local school budgets won't be voted on until next March. That leaves little time for construction of new buildings or renovations of existing space, he said.

Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston, said the subcommittee ought to consider whether private contractors can continue to offer kindergarten programs, at public expense, as a way to make the transition.

"Rather than make it 'one size fits all,' we may be able to work it out on a case-by-case basis," Weyler said.

New Hampshire will have 11 school districts that do not offer public kindergarten after next month, when Fremont and the Timberlane School District in Plaistow launch programs. Timberlane also includes the towns of Atkinson, Sandown and Danville.

Litchfield has approved a program, but has no fixed start-up date, according to the state Department of Education.

Those with no locally approved program are Auburn, Chester, Derry, Hudson, Lyndeborough, Milford, Pelham, Salem, Windham and the Mascenic district, which serves, Greenville, Mason and New Ipswich.

Sen. Iris Estabrook, D-Durham, and Rep. Emma Rous, D-Durham, will co-chair the commission. Plans are to bring in consultants, national legislative experts and the public before the committee begins to write its report.

The panel has to find a method of pinning down the cost of programs set out in the new definition, come up with a kindergarten transition program and a method for identifying school districts that need more aid than the average.

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