Funds for all-day kindergarten to be cut

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PHOENIX – All-day kindergarten is on the chopping block.

Supporters say it sets a firm foundation for a child’s education but others say some kids need it but some kids do not. Right now the state just cannot afford it.

A compelling argument can be made for continued funding of all-day kindergarten but even its supporters say there are 218 million reasons why the state can no longer afford it.

There are numerous studies which show that all-day kindergarten greatly enhances a child’s potential for educational success. In spite of that, funding for the program may soon dry up in Arizona.

Rep. Rich Crandall, Chairman of the House Education Committee, explains, “With a $4.3 billion deficit over the next 17 months everything has to be on the table. It’s no longer ‘Don’t cut this don’t raise taxes.’ Literally everything is going to happen this year. You’re going to see tax increases, you’re going to see cuts.”

Those cuts include all-day kindergarten. Governor Janet Brewer is proposing eliminating the program which would save the state  $218 million.

Christina Damer is a kindergarten teacher. She says, “They learn so much in kindergarten, I mean, we have children who have never been to school before and they may not know their letters or sounds and by the end of the year they are reading and writing.”

Nevertheless, the reality is that the state just does not have the money to maintain the current funding level. But there is some hope in the form of Title I federal funds.

CrandalI says “Is it going to be easy? No, of course not, because those Title I funds are being used somewhere else and will have to be reallocated to kindergarten.”

Tempe Elementary is one school district that plans to do what it must to keep all-day kindergarten.
Christine Trujillo, with the Tempe Elementary School District, explains, “We’ve had all-day kindergarten since 2000 and we know it’s made a significant impact with our students throughout the district and we are committed to continuing that program.”

There is no doubt that all-day kindergarten will be cut, the only question is by how much. We will not know the answer to that question until the legislature adopts a budget. The current budget remains $1.4 billion dollars out of balance.