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Commissioners oppose all-day kindergarten

December 27, 2001

Commissioners oppose all-day kindergarten



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


A state push to mandate all-day kindergarten in school systems across Maryland is drawing opposition from the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

The county commissioners say local governments would be forced to foot the bill for the program, including the costs of building additional classrooms, hiring more kindergarten teachers and transporting students.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said in a Dec. 11 letter that construction of one classroom would cost $180,000.

"Counties that are already struggling to meet the funding demands of their existing worthwhile programs should not be required to fund this new program," Snook wrote.

Snook's letter was addressed to the state-created Commission on Education, Finance, Equity and Excellence, which recommended that all-day kindergarten be phased in across Maryland by the 2006-2007 school year.

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In early December, the Maryland State Board of Education said it supports the commission's recommendation but did not detail any funding.

State education officials could not be reached for comment.

"Until the state sends the money to the different counties for this, I'm not in favor of it," Commissioners Vice President Paul L. Swartz said Wednesday. "It's wonderful for them to sit there and say this is a great idea, but it's not a great idea if it's going to bankrupt the counties."

Swartz, however, said most 5-year-olds would probably benefit from all-day kindergarten as long as the curriculum is not too demanding.

Washington County Public Schools operates a few all-day kindergarten classes at Marshall Street School. Most of the funding for those programs comes from grants.

School officials have said all-day kindergarten, which lasts about seven hours a day, increases the amount of learning time for children. In half-day kindergarten classes, teachers must squeeze as much instruction as they can into two-and-a-half hours, officials have said.

Washington County School Board member Mary Wilfong said she favors all-day kindergarten, but also said funding is a concern.

"If the program is done right, it would be advantageous," she said.

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