Your Opinion: Kindergarten Woes in Jefferson County
My daughter will start kindergarten next Monday. I dreamed of this day during those sleepless nights with my colicky newborn. I envisioned how I would drop her off with a hug and a kiss each morning and spend my day pretending to be human again.
I thought I might even take a shower to celebrate.
I registered Hadley a few weeks ago and my reaction was very different from what I had imagined: I was annoyed.
I’m not perturbed with her or the school but rather the entire system. I had originally enrolled her in full-day classes. Those children have all the benefits of extended learning designed to further their young minds both creatively and academically.
But then the recession hit and the financial fall-out ensued. My husband and I started our own web development business during it all and we decided we could not justify the extra cost incurred with full-day kindergarten, along with paying for our son’s preschool.
Our situation frustrates me. Why, in what is professed to be the public school system, are we paying for these services? Emphasis has been placed on preschool and there are fantastic programs such as the Colorado Preschool Program to supplement families who cannot afford it.
There are no such programs for kindergarten in Jefferson County, the largest school district in Colorado. A failed mill levy has left the district with more than $30 million they need to cut over the next three years and kindergarten is one of the casualties. They hope to resurrect this mill levy in a couple of years because they desperately need the funding.
Denver Public Schools, on the other hand, has broadened its lineup of half- and full-day preschool and full-day kindergarten programs to more than 80 schools. They offer full and partial scholarships.
If preschool is important, how much more exponentially imperative is kindergarten? I was surprised to learn kindergarten is not even mandatory in the state of Colorado.
Neighboring Jeffco elementary schools announced they had received state funding to provide free all-day kindergarten. Ours was the exception. Many of my friends forsook our school to open-enroll their children elsewhere.
Of course, there are some parents who prefer half-day kindergarten for their children. I get that and I’m not saying it is for every child. We don’t want our children to grow up too quickly and in the end, these children will eventually get caught up. I know better than anyone the importance of teaching our children in the home.
But why do we hold our public schools to such a low standard, professing that the most important teaching should be in the home anyway? Yes, teaching them in the home is imperative but if that’s all that mattered, wouldn’t we all just homeschool? My point is there are so many more measures and programs in place for preschool than kindergarten and that just seems backward to me.
Many teachers and parents attest there is a large gap in first grade between those who do full-day kindergarten vs. those who do not. Kindergarten is much different than the carefree days I spent in Mrs. Garcillano’s classroom in the late 1970s. Many children these days have already had two years of preschool. They’re already starting to write and read. They’re ready to learn.
Jeffco mom Larkin Harmon eloquently summed up this kindergarten gap by saying, “The sad truth is that it shouldn’t be called, ‘no child left behind,’ it really should be called, ‘no child gets ahead.’”
My daughter will receive a mere 2.5 hours in the classroom a day juxtaposed against her peers who will get 6 hours. Add in breaks or a recess and she will be lucky to spend 2 hours in the classroom. Now, I’m not a math wiz but exactly how this hours constitutes a “half day” is beyond me. This is less than most preschools where half-day ranges from 3 to 4 hours. Across the country, the majority of kindergartens are a minimum of 3 hours.
The Early Childhood Education Department at Jeffco claims the 2.5 hours was dictated by the school’s principal. The principal says it was Jeffco’s directive.
Either way, the result is the same: some children are losing out.
Update: This story ran last week in various Denver Post YourHubs throughout Jeffco. Reaction was mixed. Some agreed with my stance, others (and I do quote) said “kindergarten teachers are an over priced Nanny who ‘teaches them.’ Trust me I know. I had kids in all day kindergarten in Jeffco (what a waste of my and tax-payer money).”
What is your opinion? Should more or less emphasis be placed on kindergarten? Should it be mandatory (mandatory does not mean requisite full-day) and what would that mean for state funding? Should all children in a school district be enrolled in either full or half day across the board?