Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education special meeting (Feb. 18, 2012): The AAPS school board approved an administrative recommendation to move to a district-wide all-day kindergarten program at a special meeting on Saturday afternoon.
The weekend meeting was scheduled when it became apparent at the board’s Feb. 15 committee-of-the-whole meeting that all trustees were in full support of the recommendation. The board wanted to be able to begin telling families about the change sooner. The board does not typically take action at committee meetings, even if a quorum is present. That’s why a special meeting was called for the vote to take place.
All-day kindergarten for all AAPS students will replace the matrix of district kindergarten choices currently offered, which includes the following options: half-day morning; half-day afternoon; all-day; extended-day (morning kindergarten, followed by afternoon childcare with the same teacher and an aide); and “K Care” (childcare through AAPS Rec & Ed to complement half-day kindergarten). Currently, the options available at each school are different, can change each year, and can cost extra.
The board’s vote means that next year, all AAPS kindergarten students will participate in a full-day program at no additional cost to families.
Though it’s unusual to save money while increasing programming, AAPS is projected to save $2 million by switching to all-day kindergarten. The savings identified by AAPS derive from the fact that the district would otherwise stand to lose money, due to state funding reductions of half-day kindergarten programs.
In their recommendation to the board, top district administrators emphasized the instructional benefits of moving to all-day kindergarten over the cost savings. Superintendent Patricia Green noted at the Feb. 15 committee meeting that she had championed all-day kindergarten in her former districts, and strongly advocated for the AAPS board to adopt the all-day approach here as well.
At the Feb. 18 special meeting, board president Deb Mexicotte noted that Green’s arguments for all-day kindergarten had been very compelling, and that she believed the board was “moving forward to keep the district sound educationally and financially.”
AAPS Kindergarten Progams
One of the reasons expressed by the board for supporting the recommendation to move to all-day kindergarten was that it would simplify a complex web of kindergarten options currently offered by the district.
AAPS Kindergarten: Current Options
Currently, AAPS has six elementary schools that provide all-day kindergarten to all students at no additional charge – Allen, Bryant, Carpenter, Mitchell, Northside, and Pittsfield. Each of those schools also receives Title I federal assistance due to the number of low-income children who attend there. Two additional Title I schools – Abbot and Dicken – do not offer all-day kindergarten, but have traditional morning and afternoon half-day options, along with two other schools (Logan and Lawton).
Ten schools – Ann Arbor Open, Angell, Bach, Burns Park, Eberwhite, Haisley, King, Lakewood, Wines, and Thurston – offer what is called an extended-day option (EDO), in addition to traditional half-day programs. The EDO is a traditional half-day kindergarten program in the morning, followed by afternoon childcare with the same teacher and an additional teacher’s aide. EDO costs $4,590 per year, with the expectation that children will attend every day.
Many but not all schools offer an option called K-Care, which provides childcare for the other half of the day for children in a traditional half-day kindergarten program. K-Care is a more flexible childcare option than EDO, with children required to attend at least two half-days per week for $18 per day. [A full school year of K-Care would cost approximately $3,200.]
The district also offers a half-day “young fives” program to all AAPS children with fall birthdays, as capacity allows. The “young fives” program is housed at Abbot, but children who attend it return to their home school for kindergarten the following year. There is no additional charge for the “young fives” program.
Because AAPS allows in-district transfers between schools as capacity allows, an AAPS kindergartener this year could have ended up in any of the above programs. Next year, the only option will be all-day kindergarten.
AAPS Kindergarten: Rationale for All-Day
The administration’s written recommendation to the board makes a case for how all-day kindergarten can help close achievement gaps across the district: “The research is consistent,” it begins. “All-day kindergarten programs contribute to higher student achievement … Extended learning time and the continuity afforded by a full day of instruction have a particularly significant effect on [economically] disadvantaged students and English language learners.”
The recommendation goes on to explain how the extra time can make a difference, for example, by providing more exposure to a variety of texts, thereby increasing students’ background knowledge. It also stresses how staying at school longer allows for more developmentally-appropriate learning, such as more “self-initiated activities,” and “choice-based experiences.” Finally, the recommendation notes the ability of a full-day kindergarten program to better address students’ needs beyond academics, such as working on social and emotional skills.
At the Feb. 15 committee-of-the-whole meeting, Green told the board that one of the things she was working on was achieving consistency throughout the district. “We are really good at being inconsistent,” she said. “This would give us an opportunity to be consistent.”
Trustees asked about the possibility of allowing some families to opt-out of all-day kindergarten, but administrators discouraged the idea. Alesia Flye, deputy superintendent for instructional services, noted that districts that have moved to all-day kindergarten – but that offered a half-day option for the first year following the shift – have found that by the second year of the switch, no families have requested half-day.
Green added that in one of her former districts, there was a small group of parents who were opposed to the district moving to full-day kindergarten, and that she had developed a waiver that parents could sign that would allow them to pick up their children halfway through the day. The waiver made it clear, Green said, that their youngsters “would not have the same skill development” as their peers in the full-day program.
Given the proven academic and other advantages of all-day kindergarten, Green said, it is the administration’s recommendation that the district no longer offer a half-day option.
Trustee Christine Stead agreed, saying that while she understood the interest in making a smooth transition to all-day kindergarten, “I do worry about how confusing we make this for ourselves and our families in the meantime … My preference would be to make it all day for everyone.”
Legislative Background, Cost Projections
Discussions in AAPS about possibly moving to full-day kindergarten have been ongoing since the state passed the FY 2011-12 budget, which included a statement of intent by the legislature to pay districts half the per-pupil allocation for half-day kindergarten students in FY 2012-13.
Though the state’s upcoming fiscal year will not begin until October 2012, the district’s administrative recommendation on all-day kindergarten states, “While it is true that the kindergarten mandate will not be official until the FY 12-13 appropriations bill is passed …it would be prudent to plan for the loss in funding [for half day kindergarteners] … [T]he district should plan on the legislature appropriating in FY 2012-13 a full foundation [allowance] for kindergarten students only if full day kindergarten is offered.”
At the Feb. 15 committee-of-the-whole meeting, trustee Christine Stead noted that the state mandate requiring districts to offer all-day kindergarten in order to secure per-pupil funding at the same level will limit parent choice, and pointed out the irony in that the state is currently considering and expected to pass a new bundled set of seven bills called “parent choice” legislation.
The cost analysis portion of the district’s administrative recommendation explains that if the district does not move to all-day kindergarten for all students, it will lose $3.5 million – the current per-pupil foundation allowance ($9,020), divided in half, times the number of AAPS kindergarten students enrolled in half-day programs (777 students).
To move to all-day kindergarten would cost approximately $1.5 million, according to the projections. The implementation costs take into account the hiring of 24.5 additional teachers ($2.08 million), and furnishing and supplying 11 additional kindergarten classrooms ($110,000). At the same time, the move will lower the cost of noon-hour transportation (-$289,000), and result in additional revenue by increasing student count by 50 students, thereby generating an additional foundation allowance (-$451,000). The projections also include a contingency buffer of $100,000.
In a follow-up phone call with The Chronicle, AAPS director of communications Liz Margolis explained that the anticipated increase of 50 students is due to the fact that the district is aware of many cases in which families residing in the AAPS district have chosen other full-day kindergarten options – such as preschools the children already attend that also offer kindergarten. The expectation is, Margolis said, that some of those families would now choose AAPS for kindergarten.
At the Feb 15 committee-of-the-whole meeting, trustee Glenn Nelson asked whether there were any financial implications of dropping the EDO, or other early childhood programs that would be affected.
Robert Allen, AAPS deputy superintendent of operations, answered that the EDO, as well as the K-Care programs, were self-sufficient financially, and that the district would not lose any money by ending them. Board president Deb Mexicotte suggested that the board could consider bridging any financial gap experienced by the AAPS Rec & Ed division, which provides the childcare, as the district transitions to all-day kindergarten.
Nelson also pointed out that the EDO and K-Care childcare staff members could lose their jobs. Allen noted that any teachers working part-time for the EDO could be used to fill the new full-time kindergarten positions. In a follow-up e-mail exchange with The Chronicle, Margolis said the district is hoping to be able to place the affected childcare staff members in other positions, but that the security of their positions was not guaranteed.
Trustee Simone Lightfoot asked if the $289,000 savings gleaned by eliminating the need for noon-hour transportation would be earmarked for use on other transportation spending. Allen said it was not being earmarked as such. Trustee Susan Baskett asked if there would be additional transportation costs due to a larger number of students needing bus service at the end of the school day. Allen said no, the kindergarteners would be absorbed onto buses with space.
Motion to Implement All-Day Kindergarten
Trustee Andy Thomas suggested at the Feb. 15 committee-of-the-whole meeting that the board vote that evening on moving to all-day kindergarten. But board president Deb Mexicotte suggested instead that the board arrange a special meeting that could be posted ahead of time.
Trustee Glenn Nelson supported the idea of calling a special meeting, saying that many parents are in the midst of decision-making regarding the next school year, and it might be a “turn-off” to them if AAPS still had not made an official decision. Trustee Susan Baskett added that she had paid for all-day kindergarten for her (now grown) son, and believes it is “definitely worth it. Don’t call [me] if you’re not supportive,” she quipped.
At the Feb. 18 special board meeting, Thomas, who is the board secretary, noted that the board had not received any correspondence – either for or against the idea – on moving to all-day kindergarten.
Outcome: In the six-minute meeting, during which trustees remained standing, Mexicotte presented a motion to “implement and adopt all-day everyday kindergarten for Ann Arbor Public Schools students commencing with the 2012-13 school year.” The motion was made by Stead, seconded by Baskett, and passed 5-0 by the trustees in attendance.
Mexicotte noted that the board would add all-day kindergarten as an information item at its next regular meeting, at which time trustees would be invited again to speak to the issue publicly and on camera.
Present: President Deb Mexicotte, vice president Christine Stead, secretary Andy Thomas, and trustees Susan Baskett and Glenn Nelson.
Absent: Treasurer Irene Patalan, and trustee Simone Lightfoot.
Next regular meeting: Wednesday, March 7, 2012, at 7 p.m. at theat the fourth-floor boardroom of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown branch, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]
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