As a kindergarten teacher and co-facilitator of the Kindergarten Redesign Committee I would like to thank the Dispatch for its recent coverage of the issues surrounding all-day kindergarten.
A recent editorial in the Dispatch asked for research that would validate a change from traditional kindergarten to all-day kindergarten. This is a most reasonable request considering the tremendous expense it will be to implement this program in our district. However, educational research has a pervasive and serious limitation which is the failure to implement scientific controls. Two recent examples have been whole language (no phonics) and bilingual education. Now, both of these programs have limited or no following.
Another concern that needs to be addressed is the source of funding. At each meeting the questions of finances and financial impact came up. Superintendent Edwin Diaz told the kindergarten teachers in a general meeting in spring, 2004, that no money existed for this program. On Dec. 9, 2004 he came to our kindergarten committee meeting and, as the undisputed minutes reflect, stated that the district did not have funds for additional dedicated kindergarten buildings and that funds were extremely limited in the current state financial picture. We proceeded based on that information.
The question which has been posed to me by not only committee members, but teachers not on the committee is, “Where is the money now coming from?”
At no point were we informed that the school board was going to implement a full-day kindergarten plan. Had we been aware of this, our final document of recommendations might have looked different.
As the traditional kindergarten exists, each teacher has a credentialed teacher that works with her/him to provide differentiated instruction and intervention in a small group setting. This small student-to-teacher ratio of 10-to-one is beneficial for young learners and currently costs nothing extra. The loss of the second credentialed teacher would double the ratio to 20-to-one. Although the committee recommendation was to provide for an instructional aide for one hour per day to help mitigate the loss of the fully credentialed overlap teacher, the district has not made a commitment to do so. Is this because it costs money?
If the committee had known the Board was going to mandate a change, we would have had the opportunity to work with the district and the Board to recommend different flexible schedules to accommodate small group academic and intervention instruction that might have been more cost effective The only Board members who contacted teachers were Mrs. Rhoda Bress who took the time to contact at least one other committee member, and Mr. Tom Bundros who took time to speak with me on several occasions regarding our work and suggestions.
In addition to adequate staffing and materials, there also must be dedicated kindergarten facilities at a school that are comparable to the existing kindergarten facilities on that site so that parity exists for whatever classroom a student is assigned to.
The estimate is that additional facilities would cost approximately $2 million. This does not account for the approximately $5,000 to $8,000 per classroom needed for materials and supplies plus the additional furniture that will be necessary. Where will the money come from to build the facilities and purchase the materials? What might have to be cut?
The reasons for bringing these issues to the community are twofold. First of all, where is the money coming from when we were told on the committee that there was not any money? Second, the Board did not see our efforts as worthy of either coming back to us with questions, or asking us to define or redefine suggestions.
When teachers say “we need,” what we are doing is advocating for our students regarding facilities and materials we feel are critical to the program are for the benefit of our students.
The bottom line is, if Mr. Steve Brinkman can show us where in the budget all-day or extended-day kindergarten is possible without having some classrooms less than adequately equipped, it would be nice to know, since all indications we were given was that money was not available. It has made many teachers feel that their volunteer time on the committee was for naught and could have been used in a more productive manner to serve their students.
Marilynn Dumlao is a GUSD teacher. Anyone interested in writing a guest column may contact Editor Mark Derry at
847-7010 or [email protected]