Saturday, October 25, 2014

BROWNBACK: The importance of all-day kindergarten

By SAM BROWNBACK, Kansas Governor | 3/5/2014

Most school districts in Kansas currently provide all-day kindergarten for our youngest students. Why then did I include funding for all-day kindergarten in my proposed budget and why is it so important, not just to me, but to all of us?

Quite simply, this is a strategic investment to help our youngest Kansans be better prepared for success, in school and in life. There is considerable data to show that students who participate in all-day kindergarten are ready to read at grade-appropriate levels and are more involved and productive in school.

In the past few weeks, I have visited several schools to meet with teachers and principals to discuss the importance of all-day kindergarten. These hard-working educators are dedicated to their students’ success.

I have been asked if we can afford all-day kindergarten. I would say we can’t afford not to make this critical investment. Some schools use funds intended for at-risk students to provide all-day kindergarten, or charge fees to parents. We can ensure that at-risk funds are used to help struggling students achieve and prosper and still fund all-day kindergarten for Kansas children.

In kindergarten classes, I have watched young boys and girls work together in groups, helping each other with projects and learning critical thinking skills.

Funding all-day kindergarten is an investment in our future; one that will require an increase of $16 million per year for the next five years.

In addition to benefitting our kindergarten students, it will put hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars back in the pockets of parents who currently defray the costs of all-day kindergarten in their school districts.

Unemployment in Kansas is at a record low. We have had back-to-back years of creating more than 10,000 new jobs. Through tough decisions and sound fiscal management, we ended fiscal year 2013 with $709 million in the bank and a projected ending balance of 8 percent for the current fiscal year.

This is a strategic, targeted investment and the time to do it is now.

It also is important to remember that kindergarten in Kansas, whether half- or all-day, is and will remain, completely voluntary.

Sam Brownback is governor of Kansas.

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