Ward: Full-day K funding 'a gimmick'

Ward: Full-day K funding 'a gimmick'

WOONSOCKET – City Council President and Budget Commission member John Ward is calling one-time state funding for full day kindergarten a "gimmick" and has said he believes the program may not happen because of its actual costs.

Ward questioned if a $500,000 Community Service Grant from the General Assembly is enough for Woonsocket to create a sustainable, ongoing, full time program for the city's youngest students. In a letter to The Breeze and others, Ward voiced his concerns:

"As a follow-up to my earlier email, if this grant is the appropriation provided under §16-99-4 Full Day Kindergarten Access Act, copied below, a careful reading shows that the funds are for '…one-time, start-up costs…'

Salaries are not one-time costs and will likely not be allowed for reimbursement from this grant. So, in order to implement all-day K next year, the city will have to cover the entire $1 million in salaries and benefits; and for five years. Where will that money come from? The start-up costs for those things mentioned in the law probably won’t even come up to more than $200,000.

Because the superintendent and general assembly delegation kept this a secret from the school committee, city council, budget commission and mayor, a full discussion of all aspects of the benefits and costs of this idea were never considered. That was a mistake. Unfortunately, though I fully support All-Day K, by not incorporating funding into next year’s school budget for such an undertaking, the program may not happen.

To use the veil of secrecy to allow a press release to be sprung on the taxpaying citizens, raising expectations among the parents of our children, only to risk the disappointment if our strained budget can’t absorb the cost burden is wrong.

Solutions to Woonsocket’s problems are the same that are needed for all of Rhode Island’s urban centers. Systemic solutions should be sought, not gimmicks.

John F. Ward, CPA
Woonsocket Budget Commission

§ 16-99-4 Eligible school districts; funding. – (a) A school district shall be eligible to receive funding pursuant to subsection 16-96-4(b), if:
(1) The school district is a public school district; and

(2) The school district operates a half-day kindergarten program as of September 1, 2011, but not a full-day kindergarten, as defined herein, serving more than one-half of the kindergarten students in the district as determined on a headcount basis.

(b) Subject to appropriation, beginning with school year 2013-2014, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education shall approve up to four (4) eligible public school districts per year to voluntarily implement a full-day kindergarten program as defined herein. The aforementioned schools shall receive funding to offset a portion of the reasonable one-time, start-up costs including, but not limited to, desks, books, facility upgrades and any other necessary expenses associated with each school's implementation of a full-day kindergarten program. Funds will be appropriated based upon criteria established by the commissioner of elementary and secondary education to ensure the quality and sustainability of the full-day kindergarten programs implemented.

(c) If more than four (4) eligible school districts apply in one year, or if the appropriation does not support four (4) eligible districts, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education shall determine which districts shall access the available funds for start-up costs. The commissioner's decision may consider the ability of the district to house the kindergarten enrollment, implement a quality full-day program and sustain the program once implemented, and the decision should maximize the number of students that can enter full-day kindergarten program for that year.

(d) School districts receiving funds pursuant to this chapter must operate only a full-day program, no half-day programs. The full-day kindergarten program must continue to operate for five (5) years.

(e) All funding provided under this section is subject to appropriation.