Our view: Kindergarten headed in right direction | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Kindergarten headed in right direction

At issue

All-day kindergarten

Our view

School district headed in right direction with increased student slots.

— Kudos to the Steamboat Springs School District for adding more all-day kindergarten slots for the 2009-10 academic year. We hope that decision is a reflection of the district’s commitment to providing all-day kindergarten for all students in the near future.

The next step should be determining how to fund all-day kindergarten without charging tuition. Although there have been some indications the state is moving toward providing more funding for all-day programs, it’s unlikely that money will be available during the current economic climate. The state currently provides funding for only a half-day of kindergarten classes.

In the interim, the district plans to continue to charge parents who want their children in a full-day kindergarten class. The per-child cost for the 2008-09 school year is about $2,600 – less than half the initial estimated cost. Scholarships are available for families who need them, but those scholarships are provided through subsidies from non-scholarship families.

Although the per-day cost for sending a student to all-day kindergarten is significantly less than what most local child care centers charge, charging for public education runs counter to a system predicated on providing fair and equal footing for all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background. As we’ve said before, if the Steamboat Springs community believes strongly in a full-day kindergarten program, it should find a way to fund it with existing district revenues. The South Routt School District has done precisely that for a number of years.

There’s certainly research and studies that point to the developmental and educational benefits of immersing kindergarten-age students in full-day programs. Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said Tuesday that such programs are an effective option for many, if not most, young students. She also said the district’s decision to add an additional all-day kindergarten class at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools for the 2009-10 school year is a reflection of that belief. The increased slots mean there will be only one half-day kindergarten class at each school.

Cunningham said the district could move to an almost exclusively all-day kindergarten model by the 2010-11 school year but that such a decision won’t be made until the district can survey parents and determine remaining interest in the half-day program.

We’re pleased to see the district moving in that direction, because we ultimately believe it will benefit local children and families. And if there’s a shared belief among educators and the community that all-day kindergarten is the ideal model for our public school system, then we should show that commitment by funding it from the district’s general operating budget.

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