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Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Half day kindergarten extinct? Show me the benefit

Education, Elmbrook

Elmbrook just ended half-day kindergarten for 5 year olds. Why? Because there was lack of interest in half day kindergarten. The public only wanted full day.

But is that the way we make academic decisions these days? We do this or that just because parents want it?

Can anyone tell me the long term academic benefit of going from half day to full day kindergarten? Not the budget benefit to the school district, I am speaking of the academic benefit.

Last fall, during the debate over ending 4-K, School Board President Meg Wartman realized that Elmbrook never evaluated the long term benefit to all day 5-K in the same way they were scrutinizing the long term benefit to 4-K. The conclusion was of course that there was no measurable long term benefit to 4-K and so the district could not justify continuing 4-K.

But what about the long term All-Day 5-K gain? This is what I blogged from the 4-K vote meeting:

"Meg took issue with his assumption that a No vote showed a lack of planning. She said, 4K came out of a financed need in the 2005 study and 4K was not even at the top of the list. Since then, we have been trying to prove academic merit, which we can't find. That brought up a startling comment regarding all day 5K. Meg questioned the benefits of all day 5K--We have not even tried to show the benefit of it by 5th grade--have we ever shown 5th grade gain? (Again, check the broadcast for her exact words.)"

So why have we bypassed this same scrutiny for all day 5-K?

I think it is all about the budget--primarily when the decision to go to all day was made a few years ago.

You see, going all day in 5-K does the same thing as going half-day in 4-K. It increases the state aid by 100% per half day student.

State aid does not pay for the entire education costs per Elmbrook student. The Elmbrook taxpayer must make up the difference, which is significant. I believe in 2006, for example, Elmbrook received $1,701 per full time student in state aid. That would mean for half-day kindergarten students, Elmbrook received $850. So the move to all day kindergarten for those students who were half-day, the district would receive $850 more. The Elmbrook School District taxpayers must make up about $5,435 or more difference, however.

Granted, Elmbrook made the largest leap when all day 5-K was implemented. My question is, did Elmbrook ever weigh the cost to the taxpayer of going full day against the measurable long term academic gain? Judging by Board President Wartman's comments from last fall, it would seem not. 

The district could have handled the all day 5-K question much differently. If they would have provided only a section or 2 of all day 5-K (enrollment by lottery) and left the remaining sections as half-day, then I think we would see a different level of interest right now. Since all day is really just a nice-ity, not a necessity academically speaking, we should really be asking why we are going to all day 5-K. 

I believe that the school district has a responsibility to provide a good primary and secondary education to Elmbrook resident students. Period.  Extras, like all day 5-K (and extracurriculars) need to be examined under the the lens of longterm academic benefit.

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