I am sure the education community had a good laugh this afternoon when they read Deb Schroeder’s letter to the Waterford Post. In her letter she compared the implementation of a four year old kindergarten (4K) program to that of taking street drugs. She then goes on to describe anyone that supports 4K as a “drug dealer”. Unfortunately, Ms. Schroeder has gone out of her way to mislead and misinform many in the Waterford community who may not have been closely following the 4K issue over the last year. Some may even believe her!
Ms. Schroeder wants to frighten tax payers into believing that a 4K program in the Waterford Graded School District will “add to your tax burden” She also states that the WGSD school board members are going to vote on 4K this Monday and that it will “probably pass”.
She is correct about one thing. A majority, if not all, of the school board have indicated their support of implementing a district wide 4K program. A majority of them acknowledge that starting a 4K program means not only added instructional services, but an annual increase of approximately $900,000/year in state aid. With a projected annual program cost of less than $400,000/year, a district wide 4K program will create a surplus of $500,000/year.
The only real debate is whether or not Chris Joch, District Administrator, has stalled too long to start a 4K program next year (2014-15) and will it now have to wait until the following year (2015-16). If the latter is chosen by the school board, Mr. Joch will then have failed to provide a quality and free 4K services to ALL students in the district for another year and will have cost WGSD homeowners another $500,000 in local taxes. Over the last 5 years during Mr. Joch’s tenure as District Administrator the WGSD community has lost over $3,000,000 in 4K services and surplus state aid.
Ms. Schroeder simply does not understand public school funding or the history of 4K. She wants you to believe that 4K is some new and special government program that may not be funded in future years.
The truth is that 4K is part of the Wisconsin State Constitution and has been funded for 30 consecutive years as part of the K-12 state budget, not a stand alone program (click image to the right).
Ms. Schroeder wants you to worry that if we start 4K this year we may start 3K and “cradle-to-grave government services” soon afterwards. The truth is that 95% of Wisconsin’s school districts already have a district wide 4K program in place and none of them have a district wide 3K program (it is not required by the Wisconsin State Constitution).
District Administrator Chris Joch is part to blame for this confusion because he has mislead the community and school board for months, if not years, regarding the financial impact of a district wide 4K program in WGSD. Consider that when finally responding to requests from school board member Dawn Bleimehl for a multi-year financial analysis of 4K, Mr. Joch provided an ambiguous one page private document to the school board showing that 4K had only a minor financial benefit during the first two years of implementation and that by the third year would cause an increase in local property taxes. Blindly trusting the District Administrator they had not properly evaluated since his hiring, a majority of the school board (Schwartz, Jensen and Beyerl) dug their heels in and stood by him.
Please consider attending Monday’s school board meeting. I will share more about Deb Schroeder, Mr. Joch, and the 4K issue in a follow up post tomorrow night.