Saturday, January 20, 2007

All-day kindergarten idea favored, but how will it be funded, lawmakers ask

By FRANK PHILLIPS
frankphi@hotmail.com
Little children may one day have to go to kindergarten all-day long (which probably seems daunting to a 5-year-old) but before that happens, lawmakers will have to figure out how to pay for the program.
Sen. Richard Bray (R-Martinsville) supports the governor's plan.
"I think it has merit, but I don't know where the money is coming from," he told about 50 people at the Cory Firehouse Saturday morning. The occasion was the first of three planned Crackerbarrel meetings sponsored by Clay County Farm Bureau.
The other elected officials in attendance, Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-Terrre Haute), Rep. Vern Tincher (D-Riley) and Rep. Amos Thomas (R-Brazil) , seemed to agree all-day kindergarten is a good idea, but they shared Bray's quandry about paying for it.
Clay Community Schools Board member Terry Barr finds it "alarming" that Gov. Mitch Daniels' all-day kindergarten proposal would not require mandatory participation by all eligible students. That is "ludicrous" she told the legilslators.
However, not everyone agreed all-day kindergarten should be mandatory.
"A lot of children are not ready for all-day kindergarten," Kersey said.
It should be a decision made by parents on a child by child basis, the right of parents to decide, he said.
However, Tincher agreed with Barr and favors mandatory all-day kindergarten, if the program is initiated.
"Some children need as much early intervention as they can get," Tincher said.
Kersey agreed all-day kindergarten is a wonderful thing, but it can be prohibitively expensive.
Verderburgh County tried all-day kindergarten decades ago. The dropout rate went down, students all seemed to do well, "But it nearly bankrupted the school district," Kersey recalled.
The governor's plan is estimated to eventually cost more than $200 million when implemented statewide. There are about 1 million students in grades k-12 throughout the state, Tincher said.