To the Editor:
The January 31, 2014 Newtown Bee reporting on the School Board’s January 23rd hearing to review next year’s spending plan ["Superintendent’s Proposed Budget Shows 0.75 % Increase"] was a most enlightening exchange. What was enlightening was how our board views its fiduciary responsibility to ensure we are getting the maximum value for our tax dollars extracted from our hard earned wages or retirement funds. After town voters turned down funding for full-day kindergarten for two years, the board snuck it in last year.
Even though many voters rejected it, we heard repeatedly from officials that this will enhance our town’s children’s academic results. So one would expect we would hear reports of how this year’s kindergartners have demonstrated significant improvements over those in kindergarten last year. Even more to the point, if our board is truly interested in maximizing our tax dollars, they would be asking to see the district’s plans to prove beyond a doubt that after three , four, five and six years these kids perform at levels above (and by how much) the current students in those grades.
Was that the question at the hearing? No. John Vouros asked the elementary school administrators if they were “pleased” with full-day kindergarten. Then I read the response: “the team has worked well to put together a program…” Mr Geissler said he “thought the program was ‘terrific’ and getting better each time we talk.” He went on to say, “I’ve seen the kids grow immensely from the beginning of the year.” Grow – that’s how we measure performance now? This left me disgusted and furious. The people who are entrusted with the fiduciary responsibility to ensure taxpayer’s money is spent in a way that maximizes the return on investment would ask such a question. How pleased? What response would you expect?
I expect our board to be able to show the town how each year we realize significant improvements in the students attending ful- day kindergarten vs. all the students’ performance currently in the system who didn’t have full day.
I remain unconvinced that full-day kindergarten has any long-term impact on learning and results. I challenge you to prove differently. You have a perfect test case since numerous studies show that after the third or fourth year, any advancement is gone. We continue to spend more on education per pupil at rates in excess of any other expenditure yet we see no improvements. In 2006-2007 dollars the total average per-pupil expenditures have more than doubled since 1970 (Source: US Department. of Ed, National Center for Education Standards.) Between 1994 and 2004, average per-pupil expenditures in American public schools have increased by 23.5 percent (adjusted for inflation).
If after three or four years we don’t see any improvement in results I for one will be calling for reverting back to half-day to save us tax dollars. Otherwise what we are paying for is a very expensive day care.
23 Cobblers Mill Road, Sandy Hook February 11, 2014