Sunday, January 11, 2009

SP4K...More Questions Than Answers

Oh...but you can bank on it that the school board will vote 7-0 to approve the new 4-yr old kindergarten at the Monday January 12 meeting. Sure, Caren Diedrich and someone else will likely do their regular on-screen acting where they appear torn by the costs involved in the wake of the national economic gloom. But vote yes they will. All of them. Mmmmm...yes.

We're just wondering how much they've really thought about this proposal rather than just voting yes because they don't have the time or energy to really do the research. If district administration supports it, surely it must be a good thing, right?

Because our elected "leaders" won't ask the tough questions, I guess we have to.

Loss of command & control
4K teachers will be hired by and employees of the partnering childcare centers. Therefore, the school district has no control over the teaching situation. The requirement is that these teachers be duly licensed by DPI. But they also have to meet all other continuing education and training obligations required to maintain the license. Who pays for that? Who's monitoring that?

In addition, these teachers can become ill, be terminated, or resign. Then what happens to the continuity of instructional programs? Will SPASD meet the state mandated instructional hours requirements? Within the district, we have a "substitute" pool from which to draw on. We can just make a call and plug in a substitute teacher. What will the childcare centers do? And how will that be funded?

Employment equity
Will 4K teachers at the childcare centers, as center (vs. district) employees be provided with an equivalent benefit package that teachers WITHIN the district receive? If not...why not? And is there liability in establishing such a differential scale?

What about childcare violations?
With no intent of maligning any of the childcare "partners" for the 4K program proposal, we DO all read the papers and watch the news. We know that many local childcare centers HAVE been assessed fines for violation of state regulations. Does this issue warrant a little further discussion in light of the fact that now our kids will actually be attending these centers for formal education funded by tax dollars? The state has established a website to review the record of childcare centers.

Our children's safety is of paramount it should be. But how safe are our kids in a district funded educational offering provided outside the lines of the district's security measures??? We the taxpayers have paid good tax dollars to install cameras and hire employees to be a "first line" of defense in our schools. But these area childcare centers can't be expected to duplicate the district security measures...can they? We all read the newspapers about kids being accidentally released to the wrong people.

Legal liability?
If, God forbid, something happens to one of our kids at one of these centers during kindergarten program hours, who is liable? Just the daycare center....or is the school district liable as well? District Administration is usually very quick to secure a legal opinion on even the most trivial matters (like reviewing the agenda for an annual meeting that never changes). Hopefully this is one issue that has been exhaustively reviewed.

What do you do with 4-yr olds that aren't "ready" for school?
State laws require that any child who turns 4 by September 1 of a given school year MUST be allowed entry into a districts 4K program. We all know kids that aren't yet potty-trained...or still drink from a bottle. And those are just the obvious issues to be concerned with. You think separation anxiety is a problem at 5 yrs old? How about at age 4?

The bottom line is that there ARE a significant number of kids that are NOT ready for school by age 4. What do we do with these kids that MUST be allowed access? How will their presence impede learning of other kids?

Will this increase --or decrease--my childcare costs?
If I'm a parent that would normally leave my child in daycare all-day...and now I can have my child attend state-funded 4-yr KG for 2.5 hours each day.....

Will I have to pay more for this service? Or will I actually be charged LESS in daycare expenses because the school district is funding the 2.5 hr KG segment of my child's normal daycare routine?

Questions vs. Answers
All good questions. Unfortunately we have no answers.
Perhaps one of the elected school board members who claim not to monitor such an offensive blog as this one ---yet who somehow manage to intuitively be aware of posts made here and continually make public responses to them--- will be able to offer the public some good answers to all these questions at the meeting tomorrow, January 12, 2009. Hey...maybe one of them will actually appear to have researched the issue and ask some relevant questions.