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Opinion

Former state rep applauds Green district for all-day kindergarten

6/12/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

I am so proud of my community and my schools today. That’s because the Green Local Schools [District] decided to offer free all day, every day kindergarten to all its children.

Prior to this decision, residents had to pay for all-day kindergarten on a sliding scale, depending on your income level. As a result, many Green kids ended up in private kindergartens or at charter schools, which would offer free kindergarten but would significantly reduce the funding for kids in Green.

When I was the chairman of the Primary and Secondary Education subcommittee of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee in the Ohio House of Representatives during 2009, I had the honor of shepherding the Evidence Based Model (EBM) of school funding, as well as a host of education reforms through that chamber. The package was recognized as the most innovative, nonpartisan education reform of the year by the Education Commission of the States in 2010.

One of the new requirements under EBM was to adopt all-day kindergarten for every child. The reason for this was the overwhelming evidence that good, all-day kindergarten programs are vastly superior for all kids. The problem was that until the EBM, the state only paid for half-day kindergarten.

While the state granted many waivers from this mandate during EBM’s phase-in (the model has since been eliminated), it got districts thinking about one important question: “What are we paying for now that’s more important than all-day kindergarten?”

Many districts were spurred to adopt all-day kindergarten, recognizing as Green now has that its long-term benefits for kids far outweigh the short-term costs.

I don’t know if what I did in the EBM led in some way to my district rethinking its kindergarten policy. Frankly, I don’t care.

What I am thrilled about now is that every child in Green will be given a chance to overcome obstacles in ways they wouldn’t have before. Because that’s what great early childhood education allows children to do: thrive.

I urge every school district to fight for all-day kindergarten for its children. Demand that the state fund it better.

Then it’s on to universal preschool.

Stephen Dyer, Education Policy Fellow, Innovation Ohio

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