The East Penn School Board will vote soon on whether to offer full day kindergarten to all families in the district. I’m strongly in favor of doing so. I’ve already outlined some of the benefits of full day kindergarten, as well as our community’s need for it. But how do we pay for it?
The best estimate of the costs for a district wide full day kindergarten program is $1.1 million in the first year, and about $520,000 in subsequent years. This represents about 0.8% of the district’s total budget in the first year, and 0.4% of the budget in the following years.
First Year Full Day Kindergarten Cost Estimate
The good news is that the money for full day kindergarten does not necessarily have to come from higher taxes. This is because the district will finish paying some debts this year, resulting in a $2.7 million dollar savings in debt costs in 2018-2019. These savings will more than cover the costs of full day kindergarten, with over $1.6 million left to be potentially used for both tax relief and other educational programs.
Universal full day kindergarten also helps the district use its tax dollars more efficiently. Our current half day programs require additional school bus runs during the day. Moving to full day kindergarten allows the district to save approximately $330,000 annually on reduced busing costs (included in the cost estimate above). This means our community is getting more bang for its buck by moving to a full day program.
There is also the issue of the return on our community’s investment in full day kindergarten. Studies show that every $1 devoted to early childhood education today results in between $7 and $17 in future cost savings. These savings come from the prevention of expensive remedial education, special education and, later, social welfare, policing, and prison costs. This same principle applies to kindergarten programs as well. Can we afford full day kindergarten? I think the information above suggests that the answer is yes. But when you start looking at the potential return on investment of such programs, perhaps a better question is, can we afford NOT to have full day kindergarten?
My support of full day kindergarten is not one I come to lightly; my opinion is based on talking to many people in the district about the issue, researching it on my own, reading what published studies say about the advantages and costs of such programs, and participating in three formal school board presentations and discussions on the issue over the last eighteen months. On the basis of this work, I’ve come to the conclusion that full day kindergarten is right for our district. What do you think?
This is one of several posts on the full day kindergarten proposal. You can learn more at: