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Gas vs. instruction: what’s the better investment? April 14, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Funding.
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Many districts put buses on the road at mid-day to drop off and pick up students for half-day kindergarten programs.

Often, one geographical section of an attendance area is slated for morning programs, and the other section for afternoon programs. Buses will leave the school at mid-day to drop off morning kindergarteners and then pick up afternoon students, which essentially puts some buses back on the road an extra time.

In some districts that have “early release” days, in which school lets out early on a specific day (i.e. every Wednesday), the afternoon programs are shorter than two hours. Some only last an hour and ten minutes. That’s an awful lot of gas for a short period of instruction.

dollar signs An interesting angle to consider is how much the mid-day routes cost the district, especially with the rising cost of gas, as compared to what that dollar equivalent could provide in supplies and salaries.

Budget line items would differ for these expenditures, so it’s not an easy either/or equation, but from a broader perspective one might wonder if gasoline is the best investment of our education dollars? 

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Tacoma Schools making major investment in early childhood education April 14, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Funding.
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In February, the Tacoma School Board agreed to increase the availability of full-day kindergarten for all schools in the district.

Although the state is working on a long-term phase-in, the Tacoma School District is acting sooner, according to the “Tacoma School Board agrees to fund free full-day kindergarten”  article in the News Tribune.

The costs will apparently run about $3 million for materials, salaries, and facilities changes.  According to the article, assistant superintendent Michael Power told the School Board that:

Kids who start their school careers with a full day of learning do better in the long run .

It’s “a very consistent finding” in numerous studies dating back more than 20 years, he said.

This blog author believes that families should have the option to choose full-day vs. half-day, based on the family’s situation and preferences, but that access to full-day should be an option for everyone. Several studies show the value of full-day programs, and many states are ahead of Washington in providing access.

Although one reason for the decision appears to be the district’s efforts to comply with the federal performance requirements, the school board should still be commended on its bold move. If Tacoma can show its support of early childhood education, why can’t other districts?

Please share your experiences April 10, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Parents Speak.
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Districts in Washington state vary widely in how they handle full-day kindergarten, and we’d like to hear about your experiences.

Did you have to haul out your paperwork and participate in a lottery for a limited number of slots for your neighborhood school?

If you didn’t get a full-day slot, have you been left hanging for half-day kindergarten, not knowing until weeks (or even days) before school starts whether your kid is in morning or afternoon programs?

Or perhaps you had to select multiple “feeder” schools, with the understanding you might not be able to attend your neighborhood school?

Do you feel that Washington state should try harder to catch up with many other states on early childhood programs?

Feel free to share your experiences through the comments feature. Approval by the blog author is required , but mainly to ensure that random, offensive comments don’t appear. Parents with young children might visit this site, so we want to avoid unwelcome surprises.

Early childhood education should be a higher priority April 10, 2008

Posted by kindergartenwatch in Introduction.
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Do you think every child in Washington deserves the best start possible through full-day kindergarten? Are you concerned about the availability and cost of full-day slots, and that state and local leaders aren’t acting fast enough to address the situation? If so, then this site is a place to share your concerns and ideas. 

Perhaps you are a parent who has had to “play the lottery” for a full-day kindergarten slot, and either been left in limbo, or lost out on a slot. As a result, are you scrambling for “Plan B,” because your neighborhood school can’t educate your child?

Do you believe there should be more open communication about kindergarten availability and the lottery system? If so, please keep coming back to read more posts or feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.

This blog is dedicated to seeking more support of early childhood education in Washington State. It will focus somewhat on the Puget Sound region, but will still be relevant to statewide funding issues.

Most of us wouldn’t bet our life savings on a lottery  — why should we take chances on which students have a better chance at succeeding? Our children’s future should not be left to chance.