In an article by Vinti Singh in the CT Post September 20, 2011 the headlines read:
“Trumbull may introduce all-day kindergarten program.”
We can all agree that full-day kindergarten is a priority for our town. Can we fund it long term right now? What will the impact of funding full day kindergarten be on other K-12 programming?
The First Selectman’s proposed budget for the Board of Education this year resulted in the elimination of freshman sports, loss of classes in World Languages, science, and computer paraprofessionals. It included a 50% decrease in teacher training and reductions in custodial services that affect not only the school operations, but activities that are conducted in our school buildings after hours. The Talented and Gifted Program is currently being funded by a Federal grant that expires at the end of this fiscal year, which signals the possible elimination of another program.
The First Selectman is quoted as saying the budget surplus this year would have funded two years of full-day kindergarten. This same surplus was ultimately applied to reinstate freshman sports and several other priorities that were underfunded. I expect that cumulative budget reductions from previous years coupled with rising costs will reduce any possible surplus in the coming year. The Board of Education cannot predict a surplus to fund these programs, nor should they be expected to do so.
The school district supports the implementation of full-day kindergarten, if the budget allows it and the space is available. We can all agree that full-day kindergarten is a priority for our town if we can fund it long term, not as an incidental expense that is funded with a budget surplus. I believe that full day kindergarten must be a program that is sustainable as a permanent part of the budget, with dedicated physical space.
The First Selectman was also quoted as saying that “starting a discussion about reconfiguring the schools at the same time as full day kindergarten would make sense.” Reconfiguring schools means redrawing district lines. It means reassigning individual students to different schools than they had been attending. It means dramatically altering family routines and school relationships. Redistricting is something that should be undertaken only after exhaustive review and only out of necessity. It should not be hitched onto the back of a full-day kindergarten discussion like an afterthought.
Mary Beth Thornton
24 Cherry Gate Lane
Trumbull, Connecticut 06611