Saturday, May 3, 2008

Understandably reluctant

Quote of the Day - "Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." - Joseph Stalin

The following piece appeared in the Eagle Times.

Understandably reluctant
The impact all-day kindergarten will have on students as they move through elementary, middle and then high school is not a certain thing.

Logic would tell us that the more time young children spend in a learning environment the better they will be as they get older. But as everyone knows, other factors affecting a child's ability and desire to learn, such as the home environment, can erase the benefit of early learning.

In Newport, a group of residents are pushing hard for the school board to find $40,000 in next year's budget to pay a third of the $120,000 needed for full-day kindergarten. A Newport businessman has pledged $40,000 and community members are trying to raise another $40,000 in donations. If that effort proves successful, then the school board will have to decide whether it will come up with the final piece.

The money for all-day kindergarten was included in the proposed budget but when that budget failed at the polls, the board had to come up with $186,000 in reductions to meet the default budget figure. The administration recommended, and a split board agreed, to cut the full-day kindergarten money.

But board member Jim Lantz remained committed to seeing the program survive and that led to the present situation.

No doubt the school board would have no qualms with funding this program as well as many others if the money was there. But providing the best educational opportunities throughout the school district is not its only responsibility; it also has to consider the tax impact of every program it includes in the budget. If $40,000 goes toward kindergarten, where will it come from? This problem makes it entirely understandable that board members are reluctant to vote for the program.

In the past, Newport voters have rejected separate warrant articles for all-day kindergarten. That message has not been lost on some board members. The concern that coming up with $40,000 in the new budget will anger voters and come back to haunt the board at next year's budget vote is real. The $80,000 in non-tax dollars will not be there for 2009-10 and the board could get in trouble with voters if it just plugs the $120,000 into the next budget.

So the question is whether there exists a solid majority that favors all-day kindergarten or is it a vocal minority. Perhaps the best approach is for the board to find the $40,000 this year, assuming the public donations are received, then have a separate warrant article in 2009. In this way, the kindness of businessman Ray Malool, who donated $40,000, and the hard work of those raising money in the community does not go unrecognized or unrewarded. But once again, the board needs to hear from all taxpayers about this program and making it again a separate warrant article will give them that answer.

Go to the Eagle Times
to read the great comment by Suzanne.

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