To the Editor,
Many would agree, as I do, that having full-day kindergarten classes in our public schools would benefit our students academically considering the changing learning standards.
According to the New York State Legislature, nine school districts
statewide still only have half-day kindergarten programs. Two of these school districts are in Rockland County: North Rockland and East Ramapo. This school year, Pearl River successfully implemented a full-day K program. We determined that we could sustain this cost for the long term while staying within the state-mandated tax levy cap.
This is not necessarily the case with some other school districts.
Both North Rockland and East Ramapo are facing severe financial
constraints. East Ramapo did implement two full-day kindergarten
classes this school year. Our local state legislators have proposed
legislation regarding kindergarten classes. A1122 would mandate full-day kindergarten statewide without financial assistance.
Although there is presently state aid available for the one-time costs of preparing and converting schools and classrooms for full-day K, these funds would certainly not help the school districts sustain the annual costs of the full-day programs.
A8692 proposes to expand the full-day kindergarten conversion aid to five years but, again, these limited funds would certainly not provide for future financial sustainability of the full-day kindergarten programs. School districts are mandated by law to stay within the two-percent tax levy cap (which for districts this year will be only 0.12 percent.) If A1122 passes, school districts presently with half-day kindergarten would have several options:
1) Include the costs of full-day K in the budget and reduce other
costs via program cuts to stay within the tax levy cap; or
2) Include the costs of full-day K in the budget and ask for a
mandated sixty-percent supermajority voter approval of the budget thus exceeding the tax levy cap. If the voters approve to exceed the tax levy cap, taxpayers would no longer be eligible for tax rebates.
My proposed solution would be to have legislative staff contact the
nine school districts without full-day kindergarten and ascertain the anticipated combined annual cost for maintaining a full-day program for these nine school districts. Our legislators in Albany could then determine whether this annual cost could be incorporated within this year’s proposed $24.5 billion education aid package and permanently in future annual state budgets. If state lawmakers are going to mandate school district programs, they should first consider how school districts, and ultimately the property taxpayers, will pay for such mandated programs.
V.P., Pearl River Board of Education
V.P., Rockland County School Boards Association
Trustee, Rockland County BOCES Board of Education