By Topeka Capital-Journal, Dec. 19
Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to spend $80 million to ensure all Kansas kindergarten students have the opportunity attend a full-day program should be well received by parents and school districts across the state.
Legislators must approve the plan, which Brownback will include in his budget recommendation for the state’s fiscal year 2015, and appropriate the necessary funding, but they, too, should recognize the advantages in the governor’s proposal.
The $80 million Brownback wants to spend would be spread over five years, beginning with $16 million for the 2014-15 school year. The state now pays for half-day kindergarten in public schools.
According to Dale Dennis, deputy commissioner for the Kansas Department of Education, all but about 15 of the state’s 286 school districts offer full-day kindergarten and most of them fund the additional expense with the funding they receive from the state for at-risk students. State funding for full-day kindergarten will free up some money for at-risk programs in those districts.
There are some school districts that charge parents for full-day kindergarten, with the fees range from $270 to $1,350 per semester. Full state funding for kindergarten would reduce the financial load on the parents of those children.
The real beneficiaries, however, will be the children who don’t now have access to full-time kindergarten or whose parents can’t afford the fees for a full school day.
Studies on the subject show children who begin to learn early perform better throughout their school years and are better-equipped to handle challenges when they move from their educational pursuits into the work force.
Brownback, who has emphasized improving young people’s reading skills throughout his time in the governor’s office, says ensuring every public school student has access to full-day kindergarten is a logical next step.
He is right, and legislators should be willing to appropriate the money necessary to get more young students off to a good start on their education.
Kindergarten also helps children learn social skills — how to communicate with others, meet new friends, work in a group setting — in addition to the basic reading and math skills they pick up. It is a very important time in their lives, and they will benefit from the advantages offered by a full school day.