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: Full-Day Kindergarten Snuck in Budget Without Advance Public Notice  ( 69928 )
DrewCrash
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« #15 : January 14, 2011, 09:39:12 AM »

One comment in hear is concerning because I can not find a source and I fear that misinformation could spread through our community that we are requesting to have full day daycare. I haven't read a single word on this thread in which anyone is advocating for full day daycare. I haven't read a thing at all that states that anyone is advocating for any type of public daycare.

cedarman
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« #16 : January 14, 2011, 09:48:32 AM »

Please correct me if I misread or misunderstood the original post.  Is the proposal to go from 4 classes at 2/3 day to 3 classes at full day?

How large has the decline in enrollment been?
What would the impact to student to teacher ratios for kindergarten be if this change is implemented?

My child is a couple years away from entering the system.  I'm happy with her current daycare and the progress she's already showing due to quality daycare (which seems to be expensive overall, but as pointed out, is actually low when viewed as an hourly rate).

I minored in education in college, and personally, I believe the younger a student is, the better they respond to more interactive education (lower student/teacher ratios).  While a full day appears to offer more education time, I wonder how much of the time would be spent on the same level of education currently provided due to the teachers needing more time to help all students.  More students per teacher * time spent with each student to teacht he material MAY EQUAL less time for new material, less time to go more in depth.

As stated by others, the nature in which this action was taken should be a separate discussion and HOPEFULLY will be reflected in peoples votes when it is time for board members to be re-elected.  I agree that this is NOT the type of "representation" I want.
cedarman
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« #17 : January 14, 2011, 09:52:18 AM »

Drew,

I think the comment about public daycare is an expression of a individuals belief that school serves as public financed daycare for kids.

When in reality, as mentioned by a daycare provider already, MOST parents find they have to still pay full day daycare price (or almost full day price) just to retain a "spot" in a daycare for afterschool care since very few of us work the same hours as the current school day.
Chris Santee
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« #18 : January 14, 2011, 09:58:02 AM »

the word "daycare" was edited to the term "full day kindergarten" in an earlier post after corm saw it.

Take Care & God Bless,
             chris
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Corm
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« #19 : January 14, 2011, 10:44:53 AM »

Thank you Chris
logical
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« #20 : January 14, 2011, 01:57:16 PM »

Thank you, Drew.  As one of the biggest road blocks for full day kindergarten at this time is the cost it may be beneficial to see a break down of the additional cost as well.  If we are going from 4 classrooms to 3 wouldn't that help counter the cost for full day?
DrewCrash
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« #21 : January 14, 2011, 03:51:22 PM »

Thank you, Drew.  As one of the biggest road blocks for full day kindergarten at this time is the cost it may be beneficial to see a break down of the additional cost as well.  If we are going from 4 classrooms to 3 wouldn't that help counter the cost for full day?

I think this is a part of the argument Patricia was making earlier and that I support. There appears to be confusion year over year from both our elected officials and representatives of our school district as to what these costs will be. I too think that the economical implications are still unknown and need to be discussed. This is information I do not have. If someone comes back to me and says it only costs $50,000; there has to be a way to generate the $50,000 in the existing budget. If you tell me its going to cost $500,000 then we have a different story altogether.

Counselor
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« #22 : January 14, 2011, 05:57:06 PM »

Honestly, I cannot believe we are even having this conversation. Just last night “new curriculum” was approved by the DOE and I believe, deemed essential for Kindergarten and First Grade. Now, I understand the arguments presented for why full day kindergarten should be removed from the budget. I understand why people find it necessary to stand on their soap box and rant about an item that has been under consideration for the last four years.  What was not mentioned earlier was that during the initial attempt it was indeed added to the budget and then when Governor Douglas asked communities to radically trim budgets, it was removed. So, it has been fully vetted, now it is time to implement it.

     In an earlier post, the following point was made. “These children are ours.  We are their first and their most important teachers throughout their lives.  We are responsible for the adults they become.”  These children are indeed ours, and as a parent I would kindly offer that if we are so infallible and amazing as parents, why are certain things being forced upon the educational system to teach? Bullying and  Harassment to name but a few. In the case of these two and more specifically cyber-bullying, the schools are now being asked to act as law enforcement. The current legislation asks them to investigate, treat, punish and monitor victims and perpetrators alike. When did this responsibility fall off the plate of us parents? If you want to make changes to school budgets, work to let teachers and administrators teach, not force them to serve as police officers and teach the virtues of Emily Post.

If people have an issue with the length of the Kindergarten day, then speak to the DOE. As they add expectations to the curriculum, this teaching and learning cannot “just happen”. Teachers need time to teach and students need time to learn. As we all know from watching our children grow, play is essential to child development. As you increase the classroom expectations, you increase the educational demands placed on students and teachers. What you are left with are students and teachers under a tremendous amount of pressure to teach as well as learn material in increasingly shorter periods of time. Moving forward with the next lesson becomes is essential. Spending time differentiating learning ceases and those who do not grasp the information the first time around inevitably get left behind. It goes without saying that increasing the day means increasing curriculum (see the DOE’s ever expanding list of essential skills to be taught in Kindergarten), but most importantly it means spending more time with each student thus ensuring their enduring understanding!

As a Counselor, I see the results of this everyday.  I see the reluctant High School student who has consistently felt behind at school and is frustrated playing educational catch-up. There is tremendous satisfaction in teaching and helping these students.  I often wonder though, what if we focused our attention and money EARLY on in the process would we continue to have these problems (why do we cut programs like Reading Recovery but then in turn increase special education funding). I think full day kindergarten no matter how it is implemented with time for rest, relaxation and play is essential and inevitable. Studies show rest, play and a relaxed learning environment re-invigorates the brain and stimulate learning. When learning happens in a relaxed environment more and better learning can take place. It is time to invest our money in our future. Our future is our children and they deserve our respect and attention. Too often education is the scapegoat for cutting funds, why? Are we not just hurting the kids we claim to be serving so well?

I think it is time we let the educators we trust with our children decide what is best for them. If we take a petty, selfish stance and make petty bitter sounding arguments, what does that teach our children? Does it teach them to be critical thinkers? Where we weigh all options and ultimately select the best option, or does it teach them to be loud and petty. I want a world of critical thinkers. I want a world where logical arguments can be presented and decisions are made based on information, passion and reason. Not just passion. Passion is important in decision making; just don’t let it rule your reason.

I trust the elementary educators and administrators to do what is in the best interest of my child and for future children. If my kid takes a short nap at day care, and learns more as a result, so be it. If they have play time and learn more as a result, so be it. No matter what full day kindergarten may cost, ultimately the education our children receive is priceless. I believe it is time we supported the school and their decision to implement full day kindergarten.  Not once has anyone said thank you to these devoted educators in this forum. We all expect them to do more with less and then trash them when they speak up and tell us they need a bit more. When it comes to educating my child, money should be no object. If it means eating beans and rice, I will eat beans and rice if it ensures a quality education. We trust teachers with our precious children, let’s give them the support they need to do the jobs we need them to be passionate about. If that means full day kindergarten and an increase in my taxes then bring it on! Keeping it out of the school for any reason is ludicrous and criminal.

The argument about salaries and benefits is juvenile and petty. Most teachers live in the district and essentially contribute to their own salaries. That said, if you took the time to examine a school budget in detail, a significant portion of the budget is spent on special education, significantly more than on salaries and benefits.  Special Education costs are HUGE and are ever growing. I do not believe trimming a school budget ever helps the kids as ultimately, it is programs like Reading Recovery that are designed to catch kids before they enter the Special Education arena are cut. These programs essentially cost nothing year to year. Without the safety net they provide to students, more children are referred to special programs to catch up and this dramatically contributes to the ever increasing cost of Special Education. Full day kindergarten in turn represents a minute percentage of the overall school budget.  If paying for full day kindergarten keeps just a few students out of Special Education, think of what we could do with the savings!

Lastly, if you feel you must vote no on the school budget, vote no because you have researched the impact of full day kindergarten on children and believe after synthesizing all the info it is important to send the message that you are not in favor of it (the Critical thinkers vote). Please do not vote no, simply because you are mad at perceived imperfections or wrongdoings in the process (the petty vote). This only hurts the kids. Also, don’t be blinded by the topic of full day, there are many other line items in the budget that could be deemed too expensive and legitimate reasons to ask the board to re-examine the budget. That said, it is my opinion that if we think about the big picture and the positive impact full day will have on our kids a vote of “yes” on the budget is in order here.
DrewCrash
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« #23 : January 14, 2011, 06:05:08 PM »

if this was Facebook I would have selected the "Like" button on Counselor's post.
Counselor
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« #24 : January 14, 2011, 06:17:22 PM »

Thank you, Drew.  As one of the biggest road blocks for full day kindergarten at this time is the cost it may be beneficial to see a break down of the additional cost as well.  If we are going from 4 classrooms to 3 wouldn't that help counter the cost for full day?

I think this is a part of the argument Patricia was making earlier and that I support. There appears to be confusion year over year from both our elected officials and representatives of our school district as to what these costs will be. I too think that the economical implications are still unknown and need to be discussed. This is information I do not have. If someone comes back to me and says it only costs $50,000; there has to be a way to generate the $50,000 in the existing budget. If you tell me its going to cost $500,000 then we have a different story altogether.



It is my understanding from the meeting that for the first year there is no impact on the budget, (thus no direct property tax increase from its implementation) as Medicaid funds can and will be used to pay for the program.  After that the impact is not even close to the artificial "$50,000" threshold you mention. If fact, as I understand it, the number is closer to $5,000 for the first year (2012-2013) with slight increases from year to year after that. Even if I mis-heard the numbers, I am not off by much, and we are certainly looking at WAY less than potential numbers discussed earlier.

Again, this was discussed during the meeting and should be public knowledge, and part of the discussion as you suggest. Failure to cite these numbers early on in the discussion is just a bit unfair, as it artificially colors the decision making of those who were not present and are using this forum for information. So, not only is full day kindergarten a necessary part of our educational future, we can do it with much less impact on the overall budget than the spiraling out of control Special Education budget. Seems like a no brainer to me to simply make this happen.
DrewCrash
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« #25 : January 14, 2011, 06:25:47 PM »

So there is no impact to the budget? Well, if I had known that at the beginning of this discussion, I wouldn't have invested in over four hours trying to study upon a topic that I knew supported but had a difficult way of communicating effectively as you have. My wife said we need to have full day kindergarten and I have a tendancy in belieivng her when she talks about education. As a fiscal conservatie, (aka - cheap), I am thinking that our school district has managed our money well. All of this discussion seems 'moot' if its going to be as affordable as you say. I think this sounds great.
ansbaker
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« #26 : January 14, 2011, 07:35:03 PM »

Counselor:  Agreed.  Thank you.

vtgoober
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« #27 : January 15, 2011, 02:28:16 PM »

Cedarman asks:
“Is the proposal to go from 4 classes at 2/3 day to 3 classes at full day?

How large has the decline in enrollment been?
What would the impact to student to teacher ratios for kindergarten be if this change is implemented?”

Counselor says:
“I think full day kindergarten no matter how it is implemented with time for rest, relaxation and play is essential and inevitable.”

mkr says:
“I would like to truly hear what the teachers will do with the full day vs the current curriculum.”

There seems to be a lot of confusion over the costs associated with moving to a full-day kindergarten program that community members, including myself, are trying to figure out and guess at on our own.

Ansbaker says, “This isn’t a “research-based” discussion.”

These are all good points and questions that could have been asked if the public had been properly notified in advance of the proposal to add a full-day kindergarten program during the final budget board meeting of the year. 

This is the information I have:

The full-day kindergarten program that was voted into the FY2012 budget is for 3 full-day classrooms.  (Yes, the existing 4 2/3 day classes would become only 3 full-day classes.)  The administration offers that any parents opposed to full-day may pick up their child at noon, but there will not be transportation offered for this option. 

The school board also voted in a longer school day during the January 10th meeting.  School begins at 8:25 am currently; it will begin at 8:10 am beginning next year.  This will mean even earlier bus pick-ups.  Every year, some kindergarteners fall asleep on their bus ride home at noon as it is.  The school board also just formed a committee to look at consolidating Fairfax and Fletcher schools.  This too would have an impact on the length of bus rides on both ends of the day for our youngest students.

The typical kindergarten enrollment is 60 children.  In 2009-10, a fourth kindergarten classroom was added because the enrollment was to be 64 or higher; both the staff and administration argued that reduced class sizes were needed.  In 2010-11, enrollment is currently projected to be 60.  However, the average class size (according to birth record data) will continue to be around the 60 threshold for the next two years before there is a peak again of around 70 children.  This is not an exact science; some families do move away each year, but roughly the same number of families also move into town. 

There will be an impact on the student : teacher ratio.  Currently with 4 classrooms, there is a 15 children : 1 teacher and 1 paraeducator ratio.  With a move back to 3 classrooms, this will increase the ratio to 20+ children : 1 teacher and 1 paraeducator. 

As for the topic of rest, the administration has been clear that there will not be a rest time offered that has the children lay down and rest their bodies and sleep if needed.  According to the 2008 fact sheet (the only information this administration has put out to the public regarding its full-day kindergarten plans), a 15-20 minute “quiet choice time following lunch is a part of our elementary routine.”  Each elementary classroom offers this choice time as a transition from lunch/recess back to learning mode.  The State of Vermont requires childcare providers to provide a 30 minute rest time to the kindergarteners in their care.

According to the 2008 fact sheet, the administration has stated that, “there will be no curriculum additions as we move to a full day kindergarten.”

As for the issue of cost, the number presented to the board on January 10th was an approximate $25,000 increase over the cost for the kindergarten program that had been planned for next year. This increase seems to be lower for next year than previous years possibly because it represents the reduction in classrooms from 4 to 3 for next year, instead of previous estimates which compared costs for 3 extended day classrooms to 3 full day classrooms.  It is also possibly lower than previous estimates because it eliminates the intervention program which targeted the children with the greatest identified needs.  The previous shifting estimates of the increase were included in my original post.  The costs for next year, and next year alone, would be borne by Medicaid funding because the Board wished to still state that they had met the Challenges for Change initiative.  However, both the administration and the Board were clear that after next year the costs would be included in the general budget, thus having an impact on property taxes.  It is also important to note that the costs of full day will only rise every year as staff salaries increase.  It is unclear if this figure takes into account all of the incidental costs, like increased utilities, associated with this type of program addition.  At this point it seems very undocumented and unclear why these cost estimates shift each time this subject is brought up. 

According to ansbaker, this isn’t a research based discussion.  Yet, whenever administration and staff point out that our community needs to add a full-day kindergarten program, they state that research supports it and that other non-comparable communities are doing it.  The communities around us that have gone to full-day have been ½ day programs.  Ours is not a ½ but an extended or 2/3 day program.  If you negate the research discussion, then we are left with only copying non-comparable programs. 

Counselor says, “Please do not vote no, simply because you are mad at perceived imperfections or wrongdoings in the process (the petty vote).”  I would say that we are all role models for the children in our community.  If the administration wanted to add full-day kindergarten into the budget for FY2012, there was an open, honest and transparent way to do so.  It would have involved clear advertising of this agenda item, having financial information available to the public, having discussions over the course of the many budget meetings that take place each year, and taking public comment.  While this has been done before, there are currently Board members who were not involved in that previous discussion, the recommendations of the previously formed kindergarten committee were not followed, and no information about what the program will actually look like has been presented.  When elected officials form public policy that impacts every person in our town, the process matters.  Even if you wholeheartedly support full-day kindergarten, it is my hope that you would want your Board to properly investigate and consider the issue and elicit community input before putting it in the budget at the last minute when they had already stated that it was not going to be included.  I would hope that people would expect leaders and role models in our town to follow the process they were elected to follow even when it may go against their own personal views.   At this point, the only way for this to happen is for the taxpayers of Fairfax to vote down the FY2012 budget.
Counselor
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« #28 : January 15, 2011, 05:34:20 PM »

Patricia, I am flattered that you thought enough of my argument to cite me, not once but twice. As for my point about Rest, Relaxation and Play, these three are not necessarily meant to be mutually exclusive. As we know from both experience and research, play can be both relaxing and restful. Any break the brain gets from the same routine, is essential and energizing.  Have you ever been so tired you read the same paragraph over and over? Simply get up, and walk the dog, move around, get a drink of juice and when you return to your book or work, you are able to attack it anew.

When I have an older student work with me, changing the routine is and adding structure are often essential components in bringing about real learning and alleviating the frustration and anger that comes with being a frustrated teen and/or learner. The same is true for the younger children. Recess, quiet play, a soft chair and good book will calm a tired mind and allow for fresh learning to take place. I did not mean to imply in my original post that rest = naps, but breaks from the hard work that takes place in the classroom does equate to rest.

True, there may be no curriculum additions… now, but inevitably there will be. Not to mention that the current curriculum is expansive enough as  it is and adding more time will, as I stated before, allow for students to begin to own their learning. The frenetic pace these teachers must present information in currently, in order to cover the required curriculum is not conducive to real, lasting learning. The more gentle the pace  the learning can take place in, over the longer day will ensure an enduring understanding and quite possibly less tired students at the end of the day.

Again, we come to the issue of cost, and you mention salaries. Currently, four teachers are as you say, 2/3 time employees. Three of these teachers are currently teaching for a full day, each for 1/3 of the year. Why have you failed to mention in any of your arguments the reason for this? They began doing this after full day was removed from the budget the first time. This was instituted in order to offer FULL DAY kindergarten, aka “Club” to students who needed a bit of remediation. If we currently pay three teachers to be full time for the school year are the increases really so dramatic as to warrant discussion here? As for the incidentals you mention, lights etc. I think that this too is an unnecessary argument. Teachers are at BFA quite late at night “consuming incidentals” and we do not complain about that. How many incidentals can 60 little bodies really consume?

As an aside, for the 15-20 children (give or take a few), who participate in club, some wonderful learning and support for that learning take place. Children that may have been forced to move on with their peers even though they may not have fully grasped concepts like, number and letter recognition, letter sounds and beginning reading skills etc. can now leave Kindergarten owning this knowledge. Are they tired? Sure they are. However, they have all had fun in their learning environment, and remain in step with their peers.

We are role models for our children, most certainly. I certainly hope my children read this discussion and are pleased at the level of considerate, open minded discourse taking place. It is a wonderful thing to be able to discuss items like this, and not resort to childish behavior. It is discussions like this that encourage people to have faith in their leaders and support initiatives, like full day kindergarten. That said, the process that was followed three years ago is not “past its sell by date”. You cited research 10-15 years old, should we discount it because it is “old”? The process that was followed three years ago yielded results that actually supported the addition of full day kindergarten. It was not a lack of support that brought about its removal from the budget, but an edict from our state leaders imploring us to radically trim budgets. The current directive to cut some 23 million from the education budget makes me very upset. What do you think gets cut from a budget? Certainly not Special Education funding. Programs essential for student involvement and success get cut. Be it Reading Recovery, Band, Art or Football, they face the chopping block before anything else. If you have a problem with monies, ask yourself why communities are asked to pay as much as $20,000 for one students’ out of school educational placement. The state does not pick up this entire cost, we do.  If we trim our portion of the 23 million from the budget what are we left with? How do we do what is best for kids with that number?

As for the transparency you speak about, I doubt that any of our home budgets are as transparent as you expect the school budget to be.  We have all come home to the unexpected “must have” item. What you are really talking about here, is trust. Though we come home to that unexpected item, we all TRUST that it was a smart, well intentioned purchase. I trust that, though this may have not been discussed ad nauseum this year,  that it is the right thing to do.  This idea HAS been discussed before and if the school board did not feel they had the funds before now to make this work, and now they do. So be it. Bottom line, I TRUST that they are making decisions with our money that ultimately are in the best interest of our children.
vtgoober
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« #29 : January 15, 2011, 10:16:24 PM »

My last post was primarily to respond with what information I have to concerns/questions that people have raised.  These concerns were not addressed this year during school board meetings due to the process the administration and board followed. 

The comparison to the transparency of my or anyone’s home budget is not applicable.  The school budget uses public funds, and laws exist to make sure that the budget is transparent.  Of course I expect the budget and the process to adopt it to be open and transparent; I would hope that we would all expect the same of any governmental entity.

For those who do not know, the school currently has a kindergarten intervention program for those students deemed by the kindergarten teachers to need it; this essentially equates to a full day at school for those students. This program began in the 2008-09 school year and run by a paraeducator (according to the administration, this is the third year of the program).  Full-day kindergarten was last considered by the board during the budget planning meetings for the 2009-10 school  year.  The intervention program, which had already begun, clearly was not started in response to full-day kindergarten being removed from the budget.  The kindergarten teachers themselves began to take turns running the intervention program during the 2009-10 school year.  The practical effect is that the school basically pays one full-time and three 2/3-time teacher salaries over the course of the year for the 4 2/3-day classrooms with the intervention program.  This program will be discontinued if full-day kindergarten is offered.  The administration has offered no data at this point about the effectiveness of the program, so we do not know how well it is working.

As far as the last time full-day kindergarten was put in the budget, we do not know how much support it had because it never reached a public vote.  The kindergarten committee formed during the 2008-09 school year, of which I was a part, did not unanimously support adding a full-day program but reached a compromise to recommend implementing a full-day gradually.  This recommendation was at first supported by the administration and presented to the board.  Before full-day kindergarten was eventually removed from the 2009-10 budget, however, the same administration had withdrawn its support and stated that it would implement full-day kindergarten immediately rather than follow the committee’s recommendation.

To clear up a misquote, the research reports I cited was not 10-15 years old but from 2004 and 2006.  The internet links were put in my earlier post to allow anyone interested to read the research reports cited.  Everyone can choose to believe what they wish, and everyone is free to say “I choose to believe that full day kindergarten is beneficial.”  The research, however, does not support the notion that full-day kindergarten provides any lasting advantage. 
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