Mary Sanchez

Where will the money for Kansas’ all-day kindergarten plan come from?

Updated: 2013-12-19T00:33:52Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says he believes in the importance of kindergarten.

So much that he’s willing to increase public spending so all children can attend full-day sessions, not just the half day the state currently funds.

Too bad educators don’t believe him. Too much history, governor — you’ve got a track record to overcome.

Kansas educators are used to Brownback cutting public education, not funding it properly. And a major question is unanswered about the proposal — where’s the money coming from?

The answer, many fear, will be taking the $80 million from the very sort of programs that would help young children, especially those from less privileged families.

So you see the dilemma. This is why polite nods and smiles greeted Brownback’s announcement this week that his January budget unveiling will include a plan for the state’s school districts to receive funding for all-day kindergarten for five years. No word on what happens in year six.

Here’s how Kansas Families for Education framed their response:

“This would be a great advance if it was coming in addition to the basic school funding revenues already required by the Kansas constitution. Our organization has long advocated for All Day K. However, given that Gov. Brownback signed and the legislature he campaigned for passed the largest cut to public education in the history of Kansas, this doesn’t begin to compensate for the harm that has already been done. This looks more like a campaign tactic than a real effort to restore school funding for all of our students.”

Moreover, the governor is linking his newfound support to the premise that all-day kindergarten will boost reading scores.

Actually, governor, to really impact literacy rates, you need to begin much earlier.

Start at birth or even with the nutrition of the mother-to-be and continue it forward. A crucial time period is birth to 3 years, while children’s brains are developing rapidly.

Oh. That bumps right into other Brownback endeavors. The ones that have sliced families from the rolls of safety net programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Educators know all-day kindergarten is important. Nearly all of the state’s 286 school districts already offer it, digging into tight finances to cover the costs or charging parents a fee. Yes, they’d welcome extra funding.

What they aren’t comfortable with is robbing from needy children to do it.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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