Full-Day Kindergarten Comes at a Price

While announcing legislation that would “require all public schools systems in the state to provide full-time kindergarten programs,” Sen. Christopher B. Maselli of Johnston offers this bit of manipulative rhetoric:

“It’s incredible how quickly we, as a state, can commit to spend money on new motor vehicle offices and prisons, but we argue about the cost of providing the best educational programs for our youngest children,” said Senator Maselli. “We know that there are positive relationships between full-day kindergarten and later school performance. We know that expanded early learning programs helps with early identification of special needs or learning deficits, which can help children succeed and reduce long-term costs for special and remedial education. And yet the only thing we seem to care about is cost.”

The manipulation comes in the complete removal of any context. Among the RI districts that don’t already offer full-day kindergarten, for example, is North Providence — a district with 3,533 students in the last year for which all relevant data is available, each of whom claimed $11,883 that school year (PDF). That’s a total cost — to the people of North Providence, Rhode Island, and the United States — of $42 million. Every year. Is it really all that incredible that Rhode Islanders might evince some reluctance to push that number closer to the half-a-billion mark?
Moreover, consider that, as Maselli’s own press release acknowledges, some districts offer full-day kindergarten, but with low participation. It may be the case that some place restrictions on enrollment, but it is certainly the case that different districts perceive different needs among their constituents and have different priorities for their resources. Under a mandatory order to provide full-day services, a school would have to pay a teacher whether one student shows up or 20 do. As the above-linked bar chart on school expenditures shows, $6,880 of the $11,883 per-pupil cost in North Providence goes to “instruction.”
Why does the return on investment calculation have to be done in the statehouse? In a state facing systematic financial crises, one straightforward method of controlling costs is to allow local groups to decide that particular programs don’t make sense for them.
Maselli may or may not be seeking to direct more of the funds over which he has partial control toward privileged parties, but the message that Rhode Islanders ought to send is the same either way: stop compounding the money that we are required to spend to advance the consolidation of power in your monolithic and special-interest-controlled government body.

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SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

Studies that looked at the benefits of all day K have been mixed at best.
Certain areas of Rhode Island’s education system need some attention and re-engineering. All day K will not address any of these issues. This is simply a job fair.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
14 years ago

>>This is simply a job fair.
Right on, SusanD.
It’s a sop to NEA / AFT (who do you think will staffing those Kindergartens, after all)?
We might throw in SEIU, too – some of those welfare daycare workers might become “aides” in the Kindergartens … or their home “daycare” businesses will become “Kindergartens” … and they’ll all then line up for that state payroll gravy train!

crowd surfer
14 years ago

Now wait a minute. Full day kindergarten has some merit, and I believe educators should continue to explore the research, and dialogue/debate the issue. There are many teachers who feel full day K would be a benefit, and to suggest it’s simply a way to grow the teachers’ unions is over the top.
With that said, it is ridiculous for the state to make such demands. Many don’t consider the fact that school districts have no room for these additional classes. A suburban district with 10 K classes needs 5 rooms. With full day, it’ll need 10. Now imagine the space needed in Newport, Cranston, or Warwick!
The state should allow districts to decide when, where, and how full day MAY be implemented.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
14 years ago

>>There are many teachers who feel full day K would be a benefit, and to suggest it’s simply a way to grow the teachers’ unions is over the top.
I guarantee you the NEA / AFT will testify in favor.
That alone says it all, as the record is indisputable that neither organization gives a damn about what is in the best interests of children or students.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

“There are many teachers who feel full day K would be a benefit”
Thanks, I think we’d better be guided by more objective evaluations of the benefits of all day K, to include particularly some reasonably broad studies of same. Again, these have come back mixed as to its effectiveness.
By the way, isn’t that kind of the basis for the global-warming-is-man-made theory? I FEEL that the increase in CO2 is the cause. I don’t FEEL like looking for other reasons. I don’t FEEL like acknowledging pre-industrial periods of global warming.
(Sorry, crowd surfer, couldn’t resist.)

WJF
WJF
14 years ago

There are some parents who want to bring their kids in earlier and leave them later because they expect the school to do the parenting job.
There are some parents that feel they can do a better job of educating their child at home, especially, or at least, at the Kindergarten level.
On the other hand, there are some parents that feel a particular child is better served with a full day of structured education in Kindergarten.
The problem is mandating participation rather than allowing parent choice. Of course, if we had true school choice, including private schools, then parents could make that choice, as some schools would offer full days, others would not.
Then parents would just need to figure out which full day programs were babysitting services and which were dedicated to teaching “knowledge hungry” students.

crowd surfer
14 years ago

WJF is right on. Rather than simply bashing the idea and assuming it’s some union conspiracy, let’s consider the merits. Choice would certainly bring the most effective programs to the surface.
Susan, I only suggested that some teachers think it a good idea. I did not suggest we should act as a result. I’m not convinced that global warming is the result of human actions, but that doesn’t mean I think we should stop studying the possibility. While there certainly are a lot of union hacks in my profession, there are also many good teachers looking out for the best interests of kids. If we listened to them more often, instead of the union bigwigs and ivory tower administrators, our kids would certainly be better off.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

“I’m not convinced that global warming is the result of human actions, but that doesn’t mean I think we should stop studying the possibility.”
No! By all means, let’s study all possible causes. Let’s just not implement draconian solutions before all the data is in.
“While there certainly are a lot of union hacks in my profession, there are also many good teachers looking out for the best interests of kids. If we listened to them more often, instead of the union bigwigs and ivory tower administrators, our kids would certainly be better off.”
Yes, they would!

Benson, Robert
Benson, Robert
14 years ago

According to RIPEC, RI spending on elementary and secondary education is the 8th highest in the country. How much more do the taxpayers have to spend in this area before they realize we’ve reached the point of no return?
And before the General Assembly goes charging off doing what’s best for RI, maybe they should survey parents to find out if they think all-day kindergarten is a good idea. Before any bill is ever introduced, the Gen Assy should conduct a survey via the web to see what the public thinks about it.

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