Wisconsin State Senator Seeks to Stop 4K Funding Growth, Including Madison’s Planned Program

Matthew DeFour:

A Republican lawmaker wants to kill Madison’s fledgling 4-year-old kindergarten program before it even begins.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said Wednesday the state shouldn’t encourage new 4K programs — now in 85 percent of the state’s school districts and with three times as many students as a decade ago — because taxpayers can’t afford them.
“We have a very difficult budget here,” Grothman said in an interview. “Some of it is going to have to be solved by saying some of these massive expansions of government in the last 10 years cannot stand.”
Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad called Grothman’s proposal “very troubling.”
“I don’t know what the 4-year-olds in Madison did to offend the senator,” Nerad said. “There are plenty of studies that have indicated that it’s a good idea to invest as early as possible.”
Last month the Madison School Board approved a $12.2 million 4K program for next fall with registration beginning Feb. 7. Madison’s program is projected to draw $10 million in extra state aid in 2014 when the state’s funding formula accounts for the additional students. Overall this year, school districts are projected to collect $223 million in state aid and property taxes for 4K programs, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Much more on Madison’s planned 4K program, here.
It appears that redistributed state tax dollars for K-12 are destined to change due to a significant budget deficit, not to mention the significant growth in spending over the past two decades.

The recent 9% increase in Madison property taxes is due in part to changes in redistributed state tax funds.
I spoke with a person active in State politics recently about 4K funding. Evidently, some lawmakers view this program as a method to push more tax dollars to the Districts.

10 thoughts on “Wisconsin State Senator Seeks to Stop 4K Funding Growth, Including Madison’s Planned Program”

  1. I agree with the defunding of the 4K programs. The private sector (childcare field) has taken a horrible hit by having 4-year-old children in the public sector. Taxpayers and childcare business people alike cannot afford for this to go on. With YoungStar being implemented and overseen by the state where is the need for these children to be in public schools. I have owned a childcare business since 1993 and I see what the public school offers 4-year-olds. When our school district implemented their program I had a meeting with the principal of our elementary school. I asked what curriculum would be used in the 4K program and was informed that each teacher designed her own. I told her of a tool that Early Learning Centers use called the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards. She was unaware of these standard of teaching, but she incorporated the verbage in her talks with parents of the new 4K Program when they were introducing the program at public meetings, although, I have never seen the school use the standards in teaching our 4’s. The program was, as our district administrator claimed, “A great way to bring revenue into our school”. The teaching of these children was not their primary goal! And now it is becoming evident that enrolling children into the public system early has not proven to be beneficial to the child. In fact, I see many detrements to sending children, mainly the added stress in additional transitions in their lives…from home to childcare, childcare to school, school to childcare, and childcare to their homes much less anywhere else they may travel with their families after they leave our building. They are uprooted and put onto school buses with only 4K’s and then placed again on buses with K-4th graders, more undue stress to the child and a huge financial burden to the taxpayers.
    Last week we had a 4K who missed getting off the bus at our center. The bus driver typically waits for us to do a head count of the children before departing from our site, but not this particular day. We counted the children as they entered our building and immediately discovered one little man, a 4K child, not with the group. I called the company to make them aware of the fact that the child hadn’t gotten off and the busing company replied that they had found the child still on the bus. The child was so tired, he missed departing with his sibling and 12 other children. Thankfully, he was this tired, as he was had no time to be alarmed of the fact that he had missed his stop and the incident was not mentally harmeful to him. The bus driver felt terrible and I was physically ill about what had happened. This child should have been in care and resting in the afternoon as all 4-year-olds should be in their childcare setting or at home, not in a public school socializing. As far as I am concerned, that’s all afternoon 4K is…a social time as the optimal learning time for a 4-year-old is in the a.m. We run a 3K and 4K preschool program on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we have 7-4K children who leave our building on those days after a rigorous learning morning just to rushed through lunch and sent on a bus to go to 4K. It’s awful, and I see how tired these children are when they return to us 3 hours later.
    Please defund all of the 4K programs and place these children back into the private sector (childcare programs) or into the homes of those children who are able to be home and be a child for a little while longer.
    Taxpayers need to have the burden of these programs lifted from them as well. We can’t afford Teachers/Teacher Unions controlling this young group of children.

  2. It was my understanding that 4K in Madison would be provided by both the public schools and private daycares if the teachers were qualified. It is supposed to stabilize funding of the private day cares so they can hire qualified teachers. Kids would be in the same building all day. Where quality private care isn’t available, or where parents have kids at home, the 4K would be provided in the public schools. Did I not understand how this will work?

  3. Part of the dilemma with 4K is that the state does not allow it to be a targeted program, i.e., it must be provided to all students. Although I’m generally in favor of providing public education programs to all children, I think in this instance the state forces districts to choose between not offering it at all, or offering it to all, with little distinction about who truly needs 4K services, or how it can best be provided.
    Ideally, it’s a mix of public (district) and private providers, but there is little doubt that there is a strain for private providers (both financially, and educationally) in joining a district in partnership to provide 4K services. Those private 4K providers who choose not go in with a district really do risk going under, because most parents will opt for a free 4K program than the expense (thousands of dollars, in some cases) of privately provided 4K.
    The problem with the approach of Ms. Knoener is that there are simply families out there who cannot afford proper 4K instructional programs; you’d be surprised at the number of 4-year-olds who are simply left at home with siblings while parents are off working trying to make ends meet. Yet there are also plenty of families who can afford privately provided 4K, and have been paying for it for years, and now they can get it for free.
    Maybe a generously targeted 4K program (say, a district’s free/reduced lunch program cohort, plus 20 percent) might get at some of the challenges of 4K currently.

  4. Thanks for posting the above link. Why is Marquette listed? That is a 3 – 5 elementary and is connected to O’Keeffe middle school. It seems more appropriate to put the MMSD sites at elementary schools with kindergarten. With Goodman, Big Oak, Lowell and Emerson nearby I have to wonder why Marquette is included.

  5. Yes, Lucy, I am wondering the same thing about Lincoln. It is a 3rd-5th elementary school paired with Midvale. Midvale is the K-2nd school in the pairing, and is not included on the list. Any insight appreciated. Thanks.

  6. I presume Marquette is listed because they have the space. An interesting comparison would be between the sites where 4K is being proposed in public schools, and those public elementary schools in MMSD that have NEGative “value-added” ratings based on WKCE scores. That is to say, the elementary schools where – all other things being equal – students score worse on required standardized testing simply because they attend THAT school and not another in MMSD. Many of the ones I noted listed as having negative effects for student overall, had positive effects for children with disabilities. It would be interesting to tease out why that happens. Some teachers are simply better at teaching students with disabilities (especially licensed special education teachers) who are mixed in with all the other students. At first blush anyway, that appears to be true.
    But I agree: putting 4Ks at a 3-5 paired school connected to a middle school? Huh? Who came up with that brainchild? And how is this all going to make sense in the same district that will redistrict kids rather than spring for the $100k they claim EACH bus route costs to provide?
    I completely agree that 4K is important, and may be critical for 4-year-olds who don’t get any real intellectual or creative stimulation all day in some child care centers/homes, or the many who have NO “school” at all prior to entering kindergartens. But the “all get it or no one does” makes little sense to me. I don’t know how we can pay for this when we can’t even provide for the students we already have, or not even pay to repair roofs/heat systems slated to be replaced years ago.

  7. In other words, Mr. Nerad, it is about addressing concerns of financing and overall benefits, not making public wisecracks about what 4-year-olds have done to this man.

  8. I am not sure that Marquette does have the room. In the past the district has used a certain number of square feet of classroom space per student to determine if a school has “extra” space. This method of determining space was an issue when the district was thinking of combining Lapham and Marquette. The square footage of classroom space existed but it would have meant that there would have been two classes of kids per classroom in some cases (at Lapham). Also, some of the classrooms are used for reading, ESL and other programs (depending on the school). I suggest that the district meet with the principals of the schools to determine space availibility if that hasn’t been done. Also, I have to ask, why isn’t Red Caboose on the list? They have qualified teachers already.

  9. I’m with you, Laura. Falk is on that list too, but we have strings in a book room packed with bookshelves and folding chairs (or did, when we had a real strings teacher, and not just the music teacher who is there now and has NO idea how to play stringed instruments, much less teach them). The “sort of” two-afternoons a week preschool program for kids with disabilities has been there for several years now. They took away the classrooms used for ELL and reading instruction, and “we do all that in the regular classrooms now”. The fact that this does not work seems to matter not at all to the administrators who have declared this to be true. We don’t have enough challenge for the few high flyers left at Falk, and even the majority “average” students get left behind as all the resources are aimed at the behavior problems and the kids who want to get by with as little actual learning as possible. I am not talking the ones with true learning disabilities: the ones who CHOOSE not to work at anything that might be a little “too hard”.
    Falk is not “over-crowded” because many families who have any other options have chosen to use them, when their homes have been re-assigned to Falk’s attendance area. That big flap about three years ago finally settled onto moving about 25 students to Falk, who live in the Channel 3 area by Muir Road. When they heard about it, renters moved, and those who could afford it went private. Falk ended up with THREE of those 25 children who were re-assigned to go there, because the rest ran far away.
    So, now we are going to put 4K’s – in a program of questionable value for the money – into a school that is already out-of-control more days than not, in terms of behavior problems and tardies (or 30-40 minutes every day)? Very odd decision.

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