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.