To the Editor:
According to studies, such as those highlighted by Rhode Island Kids Count as well as Early Education for All, a Boston-based non-profit organization, children that attend full-time kindergarten learn more math, reading and benefit more academically than those in half-day programs. As a parent of a 5-year-old and 2-year-old residing in a district that only offers half-day kindergarten programs, this data concerns me. On Feb. 21, Senator Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston) introduced legislation (2012-S2534) that will expand the availability of full-day kindergarten. Beginning with school year 2013-2014, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education shall approve up to four eligible public school districts per year to voluntarily implement a full-day kindergarten.
I urge our Warwick Public School district to be the first to apply.
Recently, the topic of full-day kindergarten mandates has been highlighted in local and state newspapers. The recurring theme of these stories tends to revolve around the costs associated with the proposed mandate and the source for funding the mandate. While the costs are a reasonable and valid concern given the economic challenges that plague our cities and towns, the evidence that full-day kindergarten better prepares our children for early learning far outweighs the nominal estimated cost increases associated with the proposal (approximately $9 million per year using the current funding formula). While this act does not mandate school districts to operate a full-day kindergarten, it provides limited one-time start-up funding for school districts that move to provide students with access to full-day kindergarten programs.
With a full-day kindergarten public school program in our city, it would alleviate some of the financial and logistical challenges that the half-day kindergarten program creates. I, as well as other parents residing in Warwick, currently have an added financial burden due to paying for a full-day kindergarten program that will better benefit my children. In addition, there is the logistical challenge of having to arrange transportation to and from the public schools within a short period of the day. As a parent, I personally want to ensure that my children are afforded every opportunity to excel in life and these statistics clearly demonstrate an opportunity to provide my children an advantage. As a taxpayer in the city of Warwick, I see this as an investment in the overall performance of our schools and ultimately an investment in our community as a result. Only 10 percent of Warwick children in kindergarten currently attend full-day programs.
This is a disheartening statistic and a statement of indifference regarding the future of our children and communities, in my opinion. As a parent and proud community member, I encourage the city of Warwick to take vast steps toward a brighter and better future for our children. The first step toward accomplishing this is by the city of Warwick to apply for the program.