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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pay for K WILL Go Up (Slightly)

So they hashed it all out about the $3.3M at the truncated Work Session this afternoon.

All the Directors were there, save Betty Patu who was traveling. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was also in attendance.

There were several options laid out including breaking the money into chunks to help several different areas.

The bottom line is that the Directors felt the over $100 increase per month for full-day kindergarten was too much.

They agreed to a $30 per month increase for 2011-12 with the sum gradually going up year-by-year to meet the costs. That will take up $2.1M. The rest of the money will go into a "risk" reserve contingency fund.

To be clear, the district already has a contingency fund of $4.6M but that is truly disaster money. Staff identified a number of "risks"for this budget year from either federal or state funding (or both) that are still unknown. If the numbers don't come thru (and the latest state economy numbers that came out are not good), then the district will have that cushion to fall back on. The idea is that if the state/federal funding really goes south, there will not have to be a quick slash-and-burn to fill the gap. The $1.9M left over will be the cushion.

Should the federal/state funding stay at what the district is projecting, then the money will go to the schools to help them. Even if the money does come thru, it truly won't be coming for a
long time so no one should really count on it until much later in the year.

That's the decision but here's something to keep in mind.

The state's paramount duty is education but they don't really start funding until first grade so frankly, the state paying for half-day is pretty good. Meaning, it is school districts' responsibility to fund full-day kindergarten.

Basically, the state and the district are playing hot potato with kindergarten. Kindergarten is a firmly established part of American public education and full-day is what most parents want and what makes the most sense. Someone has got to take responsibility for this. What I saw is that the Board and the district think parents should have to pay their way to backfill for half a day to make a complete kindergarten day. I think this idea (plus its costs) are something of a surprise/shock to parents.

Two things didn't happen. There was zero discussion of half-day kindergarten as a program. I find this interesting because half-day is what the state funds so why can't it be an option for parents who don't want full-day or don't want to pay the costs of full-day?

The other was that it is not clear what the real cost is for the backfill for full-day K. Meaning, how much does a kindergarten teacher make including benefits? How big is the average SPS kindergarten class? How many schools get Title 1 funding (and therefore none of those parents pay for kindergarten)? Is the current $207 paying the costs? What is the end cost really? $310? Something in-between? I have never seen any presentation about the real costs so honestly, I don't know the true number.

They received over 2,000 responses to the kindergarten survey but Communications staff said that they wanted to be clear it was quick survey via the Internet and was likely not a truly comprehensive polling of kindergarten parents. I think the Board was grateful for the information it did generate.

Most parents (about 55-65%, depending on if they had a current K or incoming K) said they would pay the $310. About 13% said they wanted half-day and the rest were unsure. Put those last two together and that's a lot of parents who might only go half-day and there is no true half-day program.

22 comments:

Margaret said...

Melissa,
Can you point me to a previous post about the $3.3 M contingency fund? (I'm just trying to get caught up here...sorry!)

MAPsucks said...

I hate to think the emphasis on full day K is to make kinderapples to apples comparisons on our favorite MAP test....

mirmac1 said...

I appreciate Director Smith-Blum's expressed desire to revisit the Title I and II "grant" FTEs from the ground up. She did not wish to add $1.2 reserve on top of the current (diminished) $4.6 reserve. And it appears the unknowns will NOT be known before the dreadful RIF rehire exercise. That just tears up good will with teachers and parents.

wsnorth said...

Odd spin on this one, Melissa, "Most parents (about 55-65%, depending on if they had a current K or incoming K) said they would pay the $310...About 13% said they wanted half-day and the rest were unsure."

55% to 65% is a higher percentage than the number of parents who even pay for their kids lunch (~ 40%+ FR/L in this district). That sounds about as nearly unanimous as it gets to me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I wasn't trying to spin the numbers. I just meant that while the majority of parents would pay, about a quarter either can't/won't/or want half-day. That's enough kids to probably front several half-day classes. What will the district do with them?

Anonymous said...

wsnorth,

How much ya wanna bet the 40% FRL didn't get the survey email? Or those that could not squeeze an extra $100 outa their monthly budget?

wssouth

Dorothy Neville said...

WSNorth, look at the survey. I believe about 3% of the respondents classified themselves as FRL.

dan dempsey said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan said...

Well, I guess this all seems pretty reasonable to me. I admit, I am not sure why I understand why half day options are gone (if indeed they save money and some people want them). Can it be the transportation costs?

But I was glad they made the increase a slighter one. And I agree with mirmac1 -- I really hope Kay Smith-Blum can push (and push her fellow directors to dig) deeper into the morass of the grant funded FTEs and a more reasoned, considered decision on central administration (plus coaches, however they are classified) vs school-based cuts.

And, much as I wish MGJ would leave Seattle and go plague some other district with her dreadful top-down, innovation and passion-killing, money-wasting schemes, I am glad that she is back from whatever ailed her and is (apparently) fine.

Anonymous said...

I would be wary of a half day option even if it were a choice. At our elementary school, every student that attended half day for the entire school year was held back. The parents ended up paying for full day K the next year when the student repeated kindergarten. That was before they had any formal assessment in K (like the map test), so maybe that has changed. Paying $310.00 is quite a lot for kindergarten. I wonder how much private schools cost?

clementine

Anonymous said...

Of course there's no discussion of half-day as an option. Even on the news piece that ran on King or Komo or whatever the other night. The parents of the twins interviewed never even said, "Oh, well. Guess we'll have to do half-day."

Because it's a great deal for parents who have been paying for child care the first 5 years of their kids life.

And it's great deal for the district. Why would they say no to a revenue stream {that we're not supposed to call revenue}? That would be crazy.

The "survey" slayed me. Two questions: Will you pay? Do you have any other ideas?

The answer is yes. Yes, we will pay. We pay every year. If there hadn't been a survey, no one would even care. I don't understand how when it's "just $207" no one says boo about it. In fact I get told by all the other incoming kindergarten parents that that's just the way it is. I get told by all the SPS parents with older kids, "Oh, sweetie. Get used to it. You're going to pay for a lot of things." But when it's $300 it makes the news?

The PTSA can nickle and dime me all year long, and I will send those checks in grateful for all the work these parents are doing to help our kids get what they need, because honestly, I still don't have a clue. But I will *NOT* write a check to SPS for tuition. I felt that way before I discovered this blog; now I'm sure not going to.

I feel like the blowfish from "Finding Nemo" every time I talk about this subject. Puff! And then I float away out of camera shot.

If parents are willing to write the checks, fine. The district apparently needs it. For BEX--whatever that is. I guess I just wish I knew what the truth was. Do 98% of the parents really want full-day? Or do they just choose it because our schools kill it (which might be strong) or because there is so much peer pressure applied on it (Seriously--I've never seen anything like it this side of my own high school years. Parents, teachers, and principals alike saying verbatim that I should not make the decision for half-day because nobody else does. That's not only not a good enough reason, it's not a reason ever to choose anything.) What are we trying to protect here anyway?

Yep. I wish I knew the truth. Because maybe if the truth was out there, 25 of us could have a true half-day kindergarten program at our school. And a teacher who would really like to be home with her own child part of the day, could opt for the half-day gig. Or maybe it would ease some of the overcrowding? Maybe?

I say alllllll that to say, "Yes, I agree. I wonder why there's no dialog about half-day as an option."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Honestly, it's not revenue. The district is paying the costs of a full-time kindergarten teacher and the parents are just paying that back to the district(as the district doesn't want to pay for it). The money the district gets for Pay for K doesn't go anywhere else except to pay for the teacher's salary.

But, as I said in the thread, it's a hot potato that the district and state have thrown to the parents. (Now that I said that, I don't know that other districts DON'T cover the rest of the cost of full-day K.)

zb said...

What percent of kids actually do 1/2 classes now? Is it near 13% (or about 300 kids)? If not, I suspect the district doesn't believe this number, and doesn't think that the % will change significantly if they change the pay/K option from costing $200 to $300. It's a 50% increase, but how much will it change the % of people who chose to bring their kids home?

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said...

Back when my kids were in K, about 9 years ago, paying for K was homegrown - at least at our school. We had two 1/2 day K classes, and if there was enough parents interested in full day, and they were willing to pay for it, then our principal expanded one of the 1/2 day K class into a full day. It was a community driven decision, not a mandate. And the price set was the actual cost to pay for the teacher. No more, no less. Somehow, I didn't mind this at all, because parents had the option of taking the full day, or not. Plus, the PTSA had fundraisers and offered scholarships to those who wanted full day but couldn't afford the "tuition".

Both options, the 1/2 day and full day, were popular. Both filled with watilists. There were many stay at home moms, and families with younger, less mature, Kindergarteners who really wanted the 1/2 day option. And there were many working families that really wanted the full day option.

Life was good back then.

I am appalled at the top down, mandates, that are being thrown at parents now. It's bullying, and it's wrong. These are our schools, our classrooms, our children, and our tax dollars. If parents want a 1/2 day option, and I do suspect many do, especially with the promised "tuition" increases, we should have them.

mirmac1 said...

Welcome Maristella Mommy : )

Half day K was good enough for me in the sixties(!) I was reading quite well in 1st grade. It's the step-child now, merely a runt version of full day K. The state pays for half-day K. So the district's administration has set its mind it's gonna be a "full day K" district come hell or high water and "subsidizes" it. My son's elementary has four, count 'em FOUR K classrooms, pushing the inclusion classroom into the indoor playcourt. Think of the economies here, SPS: Offer up a complete, enriched half day K on the state's dime, partner with the Y or other community organization for half day care (who wouldn't jump at $5,000/K class = 25 * $200), consolidate four classrooms into two.

I agree, I think the ed reformers want to compare the Title 1 school K's to the rest of the K's, to measure "growth".

Chris said...

Studies suggest 2.5 (home) instructional time is equal to a full time school day.

At the age of 5&6, my kids were melting down at the end of a full school day.

Something to think about.

hschinske said...

every student that attended half day for the entire school year was held back

What, every year? or this happened once? or what? Did the same teacher always teach half-day? And was this an actual half-day program, or students attending in the morning of a full-day program?

Up until quite recently over 50% of children attended half-day kindergarten rather than full-day. My elementary school didn't even offer full-day kindergarten -- you had your choice of morning or afternoon. Most kids hadn't been to preschool, either, and the kindergarten curriculum was more like what you'd get in preschool these days. Yet somehow none of us flunked first grade.

When my older kids were at Whittier, not so long ago, there were three kindergarten classes -- a full-day option, mostly filled by siblings of older Whittier kids, and two half-day classes. So almost two-thirds of the kids were in half-day (though lots did the extended-day program at the onsite daycare as well).

Helen Schinske

zb said...

"Up until quite recently over 50% of children attended half-day kindergarten rather than full-day. "

But what is it now? Has the 1/2 option just gone away? I know it wasn't available at our elementary. I'd also heard (through the grape vine, completely unreliable) that in the schools where there was a 1/2 option, it was often under-enrolled (i.e. available for those out of the reference area) -- Laurelhurst was usually the example.

I do agree that if parents are paying fully for the cost of full day K, they should have the real option to opt out (and not the false option of taking their kid out of class mid-day). If a very small number are still opting out, this might not mean self-contained 1/2 day K, but it should require a formal method of scheduling the day so that there are two 1/2 days of K in a day (and not a full day).

hschinske said...

Nationwide, a large swath of kids, though no longer quite 50 percent, attend half-day kindergarten -- that was what I meant. I was talking mainly about whether half-day kindergarten had to be that much inferior to full-day in terms of education.

From "Full or Half Day Kindergarten? Suggestions for Parents From the National Association of School Psychologists"
http://www.teachersandfamilies.com/open/parent/kg-day1.cfm

"Over three million students are enrolled in kindergarten programs in the United States. Slightly more than half of these are enrolled in full-day programs; the remainder attend more traditional half-day Kindergarten."

Helen Schinske

juicygoofy said...

I find it interesting that the SPS survey only offered 2 choices (pay the tuition or go 1/2 day.) At $300/month, the tuition becomes very close to what one would pay for private education. Had it been that rate when my daughter was in Kindergarten, we would have definitely just stayed at her Montessori preschool for another year, and then entered public school at first grade. Plus, the new assignment plan would have further justified my decision, as I would not have had to think about losing our "space" in my neighborhood school.

NEmomof1 said...

$300 is nowhere near what private school costs. We pay over $700/month for kindergarten in Catholic school (and are always being asked for more money for fund raising) and "real" private school costs 3 times that. We paid $800 for full day preschool/daycare last year.