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Full-Day Kindergarten is Everyone's Responsibility

Vote "yes" on Tuesday's referendum and support full-day kindergarten in Region 13.

Today I’m finishing my response to some common complaints I’ve heard against full-day kindergarten.

Last week I tackled the first half of the following comment. This week, I will share my thoughts on the second half.

I/My kids/Somebody I know went through half-day kindergarten and turned out just fine, so why do today’s kids need/deserve full-day kindergarten?

Part B

Why do today’s kids need full-day kindergarten and why should my taxes pay for it?

Recently, an article was published in The Atlantic that explored the reasons Finland’s educational system is showing excellent results with its 15-year-olds scoring at the top with high-achieving South Korea and Singapore. There are several differences, but one of the most intriguing is the focus on equity in education versus competition. All students are provided the same amount of education across the country, along with free school meals, healthcare, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In our state, approximately 63% of children are enrolled in full-day kindergarten. Studies have shown that providing access to full-day kindergarten can help level the achievement gap between poorer and more affluent children, and can reduce costs to a community in the long run by lowering retention and remediation rates because students are more likely to remain on grade academically.

Remaining on grade has become a particular concern for our state as we begin implementing the Common Core Standards. Parents I’ve spoken to are concerned that their children will fall behind the standards in a half-day program, and will struggle to catch up in the following grades.

Some citizens against full-day kindergarten worry that students feel pressure to perform in a full-day program, but I find the opposite to be the case – students experience greater pressure in a half-day program because of the lack of time available for engaged learning. In a full-day program, students have the time for socialization, play, specialist activities like art and music, and academics, without being rushed.

As for why your taxes should pay for education, I once read that a nation can be judged by how its citizens treat their young and their old. There are several social contracts that we have taken to regarding as human rights. Even with all the complaints about “socialism” that certain politicians have been bandying about, there are a few items that seem to be off-limits. Medicare and Social Security are two that pop into my mind immediately. The idea is that a retiree should be rewarded for a lifetime of hard work by having society promise to care for two major needs: health care and enough money to pay for basic food and lodging.

A third social contract that falls into this category is Education. As a society, we have decided that educating our children is so important, that we have made it a law that all children must be educated, and that our nation as a whole is going to pay for it. Naturally, there are inequities, otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this column. Nonetheless, I would love for everyone to think about his or her own family and consider how access to free education has uplifted it, and then consider the alternative. Contemplate where our country would be without this financial commitment to educating our children.

Is this a completely unselfish social contract? Hardly. To put it in blunt business terms, you have to spend money to make money. Just like a race horse needs enough high quality food and training to perform well on the track, children need access to enough high quality education to meet the challenges ahead. The money that we invest in children’s education now will pay off in the long run. Better education will lead to greater innovations, more jobs, and higher paying jobs. These, in turn, will lead to greater tax revenue which will be used to fund Medicare, Social Security, and Education. And so the cycle continues.

Please consider your place in the cycle. Remember when you were a child and the investment your community made in you – and still makes in you. We live in a wonderful country full of promise, and I would like to see that promise continue, not only for my children, but my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Please take the time to vote “yes” on Tuesday.

What do your neighbors think? Check out about full-day kindergarten.

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