At the May 1st Board of Education Meeting, there were several groups advocating for funding for Kindergarten for at-risk students in Jeffco. We asked Jeffco PTA to share their public comments with us and have provided them for you below:
In December, as Jeffco PTA, we published an article through Your Hub about the rising impact of poverty on our children. We know that poverty affects a child’s ability to learn. These children are more likely to have developmental delays or learning disabilities and 40% of them have no access to early childhood education, a factor proven to give these kids a leg up and help them beat the trend of high rates of absenteeism and a higher dropout rate.
The National Center for Children in Poverty states the achievement gap for low income children starts early in life and is difficult to reverse. What science tells us about brain development, along with what we know from economic analysis, make
s it clear that investing in high-quality early care and learning is essential to reducing this gap.
According to the Center, high quality early care and education can play a critical role in promoting young children’s early learning and success in life, while also supporting families’ economic security. Young children at highest risk of educational failure – those experiencing poverty and related circumstances that may limit early learning experiences – benefit the most from high quality early care and education programs.
The Children’s Defense Fund states that research shows that development of young children in low-income families lags behind that of their peers in higher income families. Children who attend high quality early childhood education programs that promote social-emotional development, however, do better in school, are less likely to need special education services, have higher graduation rates, and are less likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system.
Given that 34% – or one in three children in Jeffco – live at or below the poverty level, we must pay special attention to ensuring these children have everything we can provide them in order to help them succeed in life. We can do that by expanding free full day Kindergarten for At-Risk students, as proposed, to 13 locations in the district.
Since the school board made their decision to deny this expansion at the April 3rd meeting, we have heard it said that there are already enough schools in Jeffco that provide this option for these children. This logic fails to take into consideration the inability of a majority of our low income families to provide transportation for their children to these schools. Most of these families don’t have the option to drive their children from, say, Edgewater to Evergreen. Most of these families only option is their neighborhood school. This is why site-based expansion is so vital.
Given that the new board wishes to raise the percentage of students reading and doing math at a proficient level, we find the school board’s decision on the Kindergarten expansion counterintuitive. Exactly which children do you think need to be targeted in order to increase that proficiency percentage? Our district experts will tell you that our low-income student population are the very students we need to reach in order to meet the board’s goal.
At the April 3rd meeting, our very knowledgeable district staff stated that the earlier we start with these children, the better they will perform in future years.
Mr. Witt said, more than once, that unless he has data directly from Jefferson County to prove investment in early childhood education works for these children he believes $600,000 to expand full day Kindergarten for these children to be a bad investment.
We feel, given the multitude of data from across the country showing an investment like this is well worthwhile and the feedback from the community survey, that the district’s proposal to move forward with the expansion while working to provide the school board with direct Jefferson County data for future expansions is a very rational compromise. Yet the school board still voted to deny this budget line item.
To date, this school board has given nearly $9 million to 15 charter schools in our district and nearly $1 million to the Gifted and Talented program, all without asking, even once, for any kind of data to back up whether or not these investments would result in higher student achievement for these children. Yet, compared to these dollar figures, a $600,000 investment in the children most at-risk for low student achievement, an investment that has a host of national data to back up its worth, has been denied.
34% of 85,000 children is 28,900. Think about that number. 28,900 of our most vulnerable children. Children who often have only one parent or live with grandparents, other relatives or even in foster care. Many of these children are homeless and live in shelters or out of cars. This is happening right here in Jefferson County! These children rely on us, on YOU, to make decisions for their education and welfare.
At the April 3rd meeting, Mr. Newkirk stated several times how disturbed he was to hear about the inequities in funding for charter schools. That’s 8% of our student population.
Let’s talk about the 34% of our children who live in poverty. Many of their neighborhood schools, don’t have a parent population able to fundraise thousands and thousands of dollars to provide their schools with books and computers and enrichment activities and sometimes even basic needs.
A school in Evergreen can fundraise thousands and put that money toward technology or other essentials. Some of Jeffco’s more affluent schools raise so much money that once they’ve provided for essentials they can afford to purchase new playground equipment, build a soccer field, buy an electronic marquis or even invest in school property beautification.
Children in our schools with high low
When my two older children started school we were at a fairly affluent school where we were able to fundraise about $20,000 a year. We had so much money one year we paid to have the Museum of Nature and Science come in and present educational enrichment programs for our children – so much money we were able to bring in a different presentation for each grade level.
When we moved several years later to a location only a mile away, our neighborhood school changed and my youngest son started Kindergarten at a school with a much more culturally diverse, socioeconomic population. We were lucky if we could raise a maximum of $3,000 a year for our school, a school that has since been closed due to state budget cuts. I guarantee there were no enrichment programs from the museum for those children.
If inequities truly concern you, then pay attention to this. These are the REAL inequities in this district.
But you have a chance to make a difference in the lives of some of these children. To help give them that leg up, that head start that they so desperately need by allowing the expansion of full day Kindergarten to 13 locations to move forward.
You’ve listened to the charter community, seen a need and responded. Now, please, listen to us and respond. We plead with you to reconsider your decision and return that $600,000 line item to the 2014-15 budget.
These children, the most vulnerable amongst us, need your help and support. They are relying on you. Please, don’t steal opportunity away from our most vulnerable. Please, allow the Kindergarten expansion to go forward.