Reviewing videos of the school committee’s discussions about the possibility of implementing full-day kindergarten, it’s obvious that it was intended to act as a reason to add the $126,000 one-time expense in this budget into the ongoing taxes that the schools would then receive forever into the future.
The new wrinkle to the debate is that Governor Raimondo’s budget proposal would make full-day kindergarten mandatory starting in August 2016, or else the town would lose all of its state aid (around $6 million). There’s no way the district can let that happen, for the sake of $126,000. (See page 53, here.)
Think about that. If the 0.9% budget passes, this Saturday, the school committee’s choice will be to implement full-day K this year, anyway, using reserves to make up the difference in the first year, plus receive a $40,000 grant for training, software, hardware, and furniture or to deprive one more grade of Tiverton children of full-day K, letting the district’s surplus sit (perhaps partly going to raises in an upcoming teacher contract), and then approve full-day kindergarten next year, perhaps without the grant. The choice is obvious to go with full-day kindergarten this year.
Now think about what the school district’s administration has admitted.
In point number seven on this post, Business Administrator Douglas Fiore acknowledged that the conversation about full-day kindergarten began when the district realized it had collected $600,000 in unneeded taxes for out-of-district special needs. (He calls it “some favorability,” but that’s what it means.) In point number 6, Superintendent William Rearick acknowledges that the district has $1.5 million in reserves, with at least $900,000 having no intended use.
It would be insanely political for the school committee not to go forward with full-day kindergarten for the upcoming school year, no matter which budget passes. That they’re even threatening it is a terrible disservice to the people of the town, and indicative of the way they make budgets political.