Several times in recent years, the Madison School Board has considered ways to create a four-year old kindergarten program for all Madison children. The goal of “universal” four-year old kindergarten is to assure that every child enters elementary school ready to learn. In the past, the administration’s proposals involved partnerships with private accredited daycare programs in Madison.
On Monday, October 18, the Performance & Achievement Committee of the Madison School Board will review a report from Superintendent Art Rainwater that recommends against going forward with four-year old kindergarten and rejects a July 2004 proposal from the Madison Area Association of Accredited Early Care and Education Providers.
The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at Leopold Elementary School, 2602 Post Road. Below is a summary of the Association’s proposal in “question-and-answer” format.
What is the Madison Area Association of Accredited Early Care and Education Providers?
The Association is a not-for-profit membership organization composed of 30 accredited early childhood programs that serve the Madison area. Membership is open to all city and nationally accredited early childhood programs, including accredited family child care.
What is the goal of the Association?
The Association seeks to improve the quality of early care and education for Madison�s children.
What is the Association proposing for four-year-old kindergarten?
The Association is proposing to provide four-year-old kindergarten for four-year-olds currently enrolled in member programs as a first step towards a universal offering of four-year-old kindergarten. The features of this proposal are largely the same as those worked out through 3 years of collaborative work with School District administrators.
What is the advantage to Madison�s children of the Association plan?
� The Association plan allows children to stay in one high quality setting throughout the longer child care day. Transitions and long bus trips would be avoided.
� The Association plan has the potential to incorporate lower income children into high quality mixed economic settings.
� Association member programs and buildings are designed for young children. Learning occurs throughout the day, not just in a compressed 2.5 hour time slot. Playgrounds and free play choices contribute to the child�s overall learning.
� The Association proposal has the potential to improve the overall quality of the early childhood system, as revenue increases and members are able to pay fairer wages for degreed teachers. Education and stability could improve for 2 and 3-year-old children as well as four-year-olds.
� The Association plan has the potential to build a real partnership between the School District and the very important, but much less visible part of the educational experience of Madison children: early childhood education.
How much would this cost?
In the first year, Association members would offer to enroll children at no cost to the School District. Teachers and curriculum already meet the D.P.I. standards for a four-year-old program. The Association programs are reviewed annually by the City of Madison under standards that exceed the minimum state requirements, or have similarly rigorous national accreditation. With a substantial number of four-year-olds enrolled at no cost or minimal cost to the District in the first year, the barrier of the large start-up costs is eliminated. The Association member contributions would have to be structured as a grant to meet DPI requirements. Second year revenues could be used to expand the program to more children.
How many 4-year-old children does the Association membership serve? Association Members currently serve 1200 4-year-old children residing in the City of Madison.
How will the Association move to universal coverage within the 3 years allowed by the State?
If District projections are correct, there are about 1,800 resident four-year-olds. An estimated 85%, or 1,530 might request service. The Association members serve 78% of that number. Because of recent declines in preschool enrollments, Association members could serve additional children given the necessary revenue.
Even so, adding 330 children to the accredited programs may not be feasible. We believe that an additional 180 children (15% of the current number) could be added without strain, leaving a need for approximately 150 students, or 10 classrooms that the school district might ultimately have to open.
What about low-income children?
The latest 4C survey shows that Association programs served 644 children on child care subsidies. (City accredited programs served 532 of those.) If 40% of four year olds are low-income, then 720 of the 1800 total would be low-income. Given the fact that 3 and 4-year-olds constitute the largest groups served in accredited program, it is most likely that about half of the subsidized children are four-year olds. Accredited Head Start programs alone serve 350-400 local children whose families are at the poverty level. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that Association members already serve more than half of the low-income four-year-olds in the district.
While it is difficult to determine exactly how many additional low-income children would need to be served, the number is probably between 100 and 300 children. Since Head Start and several small city-funded preschools in low-income neighborhoods are already part of the accredited system, the number unserved is smaller now than even a few years ago.
Unserved low-income children would need transportation. Head Start already has a well-developed transportation system, and with revenue could add to that system.