Concord residents debate full-day kindergarten, cite unexpected expenses that “can’t be ignored”

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On March 8, Concord’s school board submitted their budget proposal–which didn’t include full-day kindergarten. According to the Concord Monitor, a hearing earlier this week drew a large crowd debate the topic.

Without full-day kindergarten, Concord’s tax rate will increase 4.57%. With full-day kindergarten, the tax rate would have increased almost 7%. If the district decided not to cut staff (which would increase class sizes), the increase would have been more than 7%.

Supporters were vocal in their support, despite the tax increase:

“I would like to, without a shadow of a doubt, voice my support for full-day kindergarten,” said resident David Abrams, “and followed very strongly second behind that is that full-day kindergarten is not accompanied with the elimination of positions that currently exist within the system.”

“If we want to build the kind of economy that helps us all prosper, we have to really look hard at these investments in the early years,” said resident and mother Karen Hicks, “because so much of the inequality that’s growing is cemented by the time a kid gets to kindergarten or first grade.”

Kristina Peare, a teacher at Concord High School, echoed that point: “The vast majority of my life is about mitigating the gaps between the haves and the have-nots. Full-day kindergarten is another way of doing that… Tax me. I don’t have a vast income. I haven’t been out to eat in two years. Tax me.”

But some opponents say they’re not opposed to the program itself, it’s just that this isn’t the year to do so. Concord is going to have to replace the heating systems in four of the schools–an unexpected $9 million expense:

“I’m not sure (the study committee that recommended full-day kindergarten) understood what you’re up against this year regarding expenses, nor did anyone expect the steam and gas problem to come up as well. These expenses were not predicted and could not be ignored,” former school board member Rusty Cofrin said.

The district originally proposed cutting positions in the upper grades to ease the financial pressure, but Broken Ground School’s Principal, Susan Lauze, says that keeping class sizes small is a top priority:

“With our current enrollment, that would result in six of our classes being at 27 students, and four would be at 26 to start the year…

“Think carefully when you’re putting new initiatives and don’t try to pay for it with cutting other programming.”

Read the full article here.