As the director of a Madison pre-school, Sarah Dill believes all four-year-olds should have a chance for an education at that age.
But if the Madison School District launches a free pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds as anticipated next fall, it could cost Dill’s Meeting House Nursery School $50,000 a year.
That’s because the district may not pay the nonprofit pre-school — one of dozens being considered for participation in the new program — its full cost of offering the education, which is now borne by parents. To close the gap, Meeting House might have to hike tuition costs for its younger students.
“It’s a huge chunk of money,” said Dill. “Fifty-thousand may not sound like a lot to some corporations, but for us, that’s big. And we’re now going to have to sell it to our families that, ‘If you’re willing to pay a little bit more when they’re two and three, hang in there with us and when they’re four, it will be free for you.'”
It’s one of the financial tradeoffs of a public/private 4K program that has been in the works off and on for nearly a decade. There’s a good chance the district will have to ask property taxpayers to help foot the start-up costs of 4K. Parents are still unsure about how it will all work — and some preschool providers are unsure of 4K’s effect on the bottom line.