Thursday, November 2, 2006

Issue: Full-Day Kindergarten

An oft-discussed issue in the races for the State House in Indiana is Full-Day Kindergarten. While some states have already adopted Full-Day Kindergarten, many states are currently toying with the idea.

The arguments I've heard most recently in favor of Full-Day Kindergarten include:
  • It's good for the lower class who aren't able to afford sending their children to preschool. These children start kindergarten developmentally behind their preschool counterparts, and Full-Day Kindergarten gives them the opportunity to catch up.
  • First, in Kindergarten, those children are on the same developmental path, whether they attended preschool or not. Those who attended preschool have only two real advantages. They are likely to perform better socially, as preschool should have taught them basic social etiquette skills and an understanding of the organizational structure of the classroom. Children who attended preschool are likely better adapted to being away from parents for a portion of the day. Both of these advantages can also be picked up by non-preschoolers through free church activities, low cost organized sports activities such as my son's basketball program, play dates with other children (friends, cousins, etc.), and time spent with a babysitter while parents enjoy some time together. How much real learning actually occurs in preschool? Nothing that can't be at least matched in the home by loving, involved parents.
  • Second, how can you argue that kids who missed preschool will get caught up with the extra time of Full-Day Kindergarten when the kids who went to preschool also get the same amount of extra time? Either the non-preschoolers will get caught up while the preschoolers fall behind, or the preschoolers will continue to develop ahead of the non-preschoolers. That is, if you even believe they had an advantage to begin with.
The pro argument:
  • Full-Day Kindergarten allows a stay-at-home parent to return to work a year earlier.
The counterargument:
  • Many stay-at-home parents do so by choice and would likely choose to do so during the additional Kindergarten year. Half-Day Kindergarten provides both parent and child an opportunity to adjust to the major life change of school and, if chosen, returning to work.
There are no doubt many more arguments in favor of Full-Day Kindergarten, but as you may have guessed, I'm not a proponent. So here are some more reasons I think Full-Day Kindergarten is a bad idea:
  • Taxes: With Half-Day Kindergarten, most Kindergarten teachers have two classes, morning and afternoon, in one classroom. Switching to Full-Day Kindergarten would increase education expenses in several ways, and those expenses would be absorbed by taxpayers. Full-Day Kindergarten with the same number of kids would mean our current teachers would have their days filled with just one class instead of two. This presents the need for twice as many teachers and twice as many classrooms, unless you just dump twice as many kids into each full day class, which would mean less individual attention per student, resulting in a lower quality education. More teachers means more teacher salaries. More classrooms means construction costs, additional supply costs, additional utility costs, increased insurance costs, and the list goes on and on.
  • Family: Full-Day Kindergarten means less time for children to be home with the family during the most formative years of their lives. I'm a firm believer that a solid, loving, supporting home life is the most important factor in developing quality future citizens from today's children.
  • Childhood: I'm already thinking that my son's childhood is going by way too fast. The last thing I want to see is that being expedited even more by rushing him into a full-time school life.
  • Education: Quality of education reports consistently list children that are home-schooled as being better developed and better prepared than those who go through public education systems. This is just one more reason not to rush our children into the hands of someone else for the most important developmental period of their lives.
The success of American society depends on our children. The way we prepare them today will determine how productive they are tomorrow. Time spent in a loving home with the support and tutelage of caring parents will reap benefits that can never come from the teaching of a stranger in a cold, sterile classroom.

So don't rush your kids -- or mine -- out of the house. Say no to Full-Day Kindergarten. Do it with your votes on Tuesday.


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