Kansas Governor Sam Brownback paid a visit to Roesland Elementary School in Roeland Park this afternoon to promote his full-day kindergarten proposal, which has the backing of the Shawnee Mission School District.
Brownback has proposed that the state completely fund full-day kindergarten in public schools, increasing its contribution over five years. The state now pays for half-day and a portion of the full-day cost.
Dr. Jim Hinson, Shawnee Mission School Superintendent, said parents are paying just under $2 million in fees for full-day. The district also is spending $1.1 million to supplement full-day. If they don’t qualify for assistance, parents pay $2,700 to get the full day. Of the 2,238 kindergarten students in Shawnee Mission, 1,720 of them are in full-day kindergarten and 518 are in half day.
Parents in Shawnee Mission feel that full-day kindergarten is important, Hinson said. “Is it right for our parents to pay almost $2 million to have their kids in full-day kindergarten,” Hinson asked. The research, Hinson said, supports the value of the full day and he noted that Missouri funds full-day classes. “We heartily support the proposal. If we are going to compete, we need this.”
“We have needed to do it for some period of time,” Brownback said. It is best to invest in early education, he added. Kansas has good schools, Brownback said, but is not doing as well for lower incomes. “This hits that target,” he said.
“The families who can’t afford it are the ones who struggle,” Hinson said. “That’s not right.” Roesland teacher Terry Snodgrass, whose class Brownback visited, also spoke, saying full day “makes a positive impact.” It allows more time to know students and their challenges and for differentiated instruction since the students are at different developmental levels, she said.
In response to a question from Roesland PTA President Kellie Gillespie, Brownback said the money to fund full day ($80 million per year at its build-out) would come from a growing Kansas economy and not cuts in other areas.
Asked about opposition from conservative legislators, he said, “I think the studies are pretty clear.”