All-day kindergarten: What are the trade-offs?

March 30, 2011 04:00 am

Like the folks at Brookings-Harbor School District, we’re all for full-day kindergarten. It’s a wonderful idea and is working well here so far. Under other circumstances we’d support those in the Legislature who want to require all school districts in Oregon to offer it by 2015, and have the state pay for it.

However, we can’t help but wonder: Where will that money come from? What existing services or jobs will be cut to make it happen?

Remember, Oregon is a state that has been cutting public school funding for years. Are legislators expecting a dramatic turnaround by 2015?

 Parents, and school officials, should know the trade-offs.

It’s hard to dispute the value of a full-day program for Oregon’s youngest public-school students. WestEd, a nonprofit research, development and service agency that serves several Western states, looked at the available research several years ago. It found that children who attend kindergarten full-time are more likely to be ready for first grade, have higher academic achievement and better attendance in subsequent years. Subsequent studies continue to bear those findings out.

Full-day kindergarten sounds pretty good, but now is not the time to make it mandatory statewide. There are problems. First and foremost, requiring schools to add or expand programs before they can pay for what they have simply doesn’t make sense.

We want legislators to find a way to pay for universal all-day kindergarten. Until they find the money, it should wait.