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13th March
2009
written by Sean Noble

The front page of the Arizona Republic on Friday led with a story headlined: “The Human Anguish Of State’s Budget Cuts.  It is downright tear-jerking.

So, here are the choices.  The Legislature either keeps those cuts in place followed by even more cuts, or we raise taxes, or we cut education funding.

Of the three options, the least harmful to either the economy or poor children is cutting education – specifically All-Day Kindergarten.  There is plenty of evidence that All-Day K does not actually give children long term learning advantages.  In fact, there is both empirical and anecdotal evidence that All-Day K reduces learning.

The anecdotal evidence comes from my own experience with my son Adam.  When he was getting ready to start kindergarten, we lived in the Paradise Valley School district, which passed a bond election to fund “Voluntary All-Day Kindergarten.”

When we went to enroll him, we asked that he attend half-day in the afternoon, because my wife was in the routine of putting the two little girls down for a nap mid-morning and she would work with him on reading while it was quiet.

We were told that there wasn’t a half-day option, because now PV had all-day K.  I said that I didn’t want my son in kindergarten for a full day, and I was told by the admissions person, and then the principal, that half-day wasn’t an option.  I was stunned, and obviously a little irked.  I called the District and asked how it was that the bond campaign clearly said “voluntary” all-day K and now I didn’t have the option of half-day.  There was silence on the other end of the phone and then a suggestion that I talk to the Asst. Superintendent that was in charge of the all-day K curriculum development.

That call was right out of the twilight zone.  I tell the gentleman on the other line that I wanted to know more about all-day K and why, if it was “voluntary,” I didn’t have a half-day option.  He talked about how they spent the spring and early summer working with a committee to develop a wonderful curriculum for all-day K.  I asked him if there was any discussion at all about how to deal with families who would choose a half-day option.  His response? (This is his direct quote to me) “What parent, in their right mind, would choose half-day over full-day?”

Uh, well, maybe the parent on the phone with you, you snobbish, arrogant, elitist educrat!

I was shocked, and really, really angry.  But wait, there’s more!

After two appearances before the school board, two more meetings with the district and many discussions with the principal, we decided that because they were doing reading in the morning and math in the afternoon, we really didn’t have a choice but to keep him in all day.

A few months later it is Christmas break and I ask Adam to sit down and read to me.  To my utter horror, I realized that his reading had regressed.  A lot.

At that point, I’d had it.  This wonderful all-day K was actually hurting my child.  I wrote an email to every legislator at the state capital and Rep. Mark Anderson gave me a call and said that he was going to fix it.  And fix it he did.  It is now state law that if a school offers all-day K, they have to give parents a half-day option that includes all of the state-required curriculum.

So, when it comes to choosing between cutting DES, or cutting all-day K, the legislature should do the right thing and stop hurting 5 year-old kids.  Go back to half-day kindergarten.  As far as my experience shows, if we do that, everybody wins.

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12 Comments

  1. Carol
    14/03/2009

    It is recommended by doctors that children age 5 sleep between 9-11 hours a day. The wisdom behind half-day kindergarten was to allow either a morning or afternoon nap. My kids napped through age 5. Parenting issues are made more difficult when the parent second guesses themselves because they know a child is tired. It would help schools to have rested, calm children, eager to learn, wouldn’t it?

  2. Michelle
    14/03/2009

    I agree that every parent should have the CHOICE of full day v. half day kindergarten. My only contradicting comment is that all-day K did not make your kiddos reading regress. Bad teachers and poor programs did. There are some amazing schools out there that can do all day and still greatly improve the kids learning!

  3. leigh
    14/03/2009

    The fact is that the all day kindergarten is used as free day care by many of the parents and not as the opportunity for additional education it should have been. The waste present in the public school spending due to a lack of forethought is a major part of our state government’s manic spending habits. Our State has way too many school districts and many have a lack of funding for things like quality teachers, paper and books etc. Each District has duplicates such as superintendents, staff, offices costing in the millions. This point is clearly made by comparing Mesa’s single School District to the dozen or so school districts in Phoenix. Mesa student testing leads the state and blows phoenix out of the water. The secret to there success? There are many reasons but one is money is able to be spread evenly across the city where phoenix’s wealth P.V. school district has surpluses and south Phoenix district can not afford books. The Mesa District has become so good at doing there job that the school district has spread to neighboring Gilbert as well as other cities and are helping to provide better learning opportunities to the students in more then Mesa. Other cities and States across this great country have found that the example of the Mesa school districts success can and has been copied with great success!
    Education in any form can never truly be successful on any level without the support, partnering and the involvement of the parents of the children. While opportunities can be offered by the school’s, the drive to excel and to take advantage of these opportunities comes from the home! I.E. The FAMILY.
    Thx’s

  4. leigh
    14/03/2009

    I stand corrected. Phoenix’s web site states the following: “Phoenix is home to 325 public schools in 30 school districts along with more than 200 charter and private schools’s”
    To compare this to a city larger then Phoenix, say Los Angeles:1 with 8 sub districts. It is interesting to note this on there web site:
    “Research shows that children do much better when their parents are an active part of their education. Simply put, parental involvement will make LAUSD’s schools better and improve the educational opportunities for our children.”

  5. Woody
    14/03/2009

    One evening this week I was listening to KTAR and the female news anchor said that the child care subsidies had been renewed, and that “at least 15,000 families now won’t have to choose between working and quitting their jobs and going on welfare.” She’d reported it that way twice that I heard and the host tried to call her on the either or presentation but she was so incredibly arrogant–she had seen the women and listened to them, she said. All Day K is simply subsidized child care for a much larger and more active voting bloc.

  6. Thomas Grier
    14/03/2009

    I hate “educrats”, except my wife who teaches 2nd grade. Maybe some perspective in our Republican controlled legislature will allow someone to call those protesting educators out and tell them they cannot hide behind a cloak of “children” any longer.

    50 years of depending on a welfare state has crippled our children in the first place, so eliminate all state welfare subsidies, tell the protesting liberals to shutup and call it a day.

  7. 14/03/2009

    Specifically on the Arizona Republic side of this post I saw the cover article in a newspaper sales machine on Mill Avenue in Tempe. To me it really brought home the idea that most newspapers are completely and utterly convinced that any and all government is good and that no other possible position is conceivable. The title “The human anguish of state’s budget cuts” obviously left no margin to discuss the idea that additional taxes cause their own particular human anguish, one never discussed by large print newspapers. In my review of that issue (a kind benefactor paid for a copy) I didn’t notice any articles on the benefits of scaling back the insane level of military spending or editorials on why the state should reduce spending on drug user incarceration. I guess it just wasn’t important enough to bring up.

  8. Lori Robertson
    04/04/2009

    Where is that state law? I want to use it! I have been looking for a half day kindergarten that I can afford!

    Help! Where is that law at?

  9. Lori Robertson
    04/04/2009

    More importantly, what defines “voluntary” kindergarten? It’s not required, so isn’t it all voluntary?

  10. […] I’ve already written about my feelings toward full-day K. Notice the caveat in the quote from Dr. McElyea, “Our full-day kindergarten students have an academic edge over students in half-day kindergarten when measured at the end of the academic year.”  What she doesn’t say is that by third grade, any measurable “edge” is lost and there is no difference in the academic performance between students who had full-day K students who had half-day K. […]

  11. Amanda McCombs
    16/10/2009

    I have the same problem in Texas with full day Kindergarten. My two oldest sons were reading before Kindergarten and their reading levels declined as well. I have already met with the school principal who, of course, couldn’t help me. I am determined to get this changed at the state level.

  12. […] mine, because I had such a personal experience with it when my oldest son was in kindergarten and the experience I had in trying to actually exercise a choice as a parent to NOT have him in an all-day […]

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