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April 27, 2015

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Memo from Carson City:

Full-day kindergarten for the haves and have-nots


Mona Shield Payne

Kindergartner Jonathan Mondragon leads his classmates in a single-file line down the hallway for their first day of class Monday, Aug. 27, 2012, at Cambeiro Elementary School in Las Vegas.

Unless something changes at the Legislature, some parents will have to pay $3,200 for their child’s full-day kindergarten class in the Clark County School District next school year.

At the same time, other parents won’t have to pay to send their children to full-day kindergarten in the district.

“It’s unfair,” Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Reno, said. “We basically have a private school system within our public school system. ... I think it’s a huge inequity, and I personally think it shouldn’t be allowed.”

The two-tiered system sets the School District up for “some litigation risks,” said Sylvia Lazos, a UNLV law professor.

The system could be challenged in court, she said.

The state’s constitution says says that “the Legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools” and that the Legislature must fund schools before spending money on anything else. The Legislature, in partnership with local governments, must specifically pay for the “operation of the public schools in the state for kindergarten through grade 12.”

But a conflicting choice — the state level versus the district level — sets up a system of haves and have-nots.

Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to expand subsidized full-day kindergarten to the schools with the highest numbers of students living in poverty. At the same time, the district is allowing tuition-based, full-day kindergarten at 53 schools that don’t qualify for state funding but have enough classroom space to accommodate the students.

Smith said the “pay for K” programs leave lower middle-class families left out. The state subsidizes the poorest students while wealthier families can afford $3,200 for full-day kindergarten.

But at elementary schools such as John R. Hummel in Las Vegas, the “pay for K” program could well be unaffordable for some families in the school’s boundaries.

That’s because the boundary includes areas where median household incomes are within the $60,000-$65,000 range and other areas where they are in the $30,000-$35,000 range, according to U.S. Census data.

Some of those families may not be able to afford to put more than 10 percent of their pre-tax income toward full-day kindergarten.

The district started this program during the 2004-05 school year with 12 schools offering tuition-based classes.

Eight school years later, the state is providing about 12,000 students at 100 schools with subsidized full-day kindergarten. The district is charging about 2,500 families $3,200 per child for full-day kindergarten at 50 schools, said Clark County School District lobbyist Joyce Haldeman.

Haldeman said the programs, which often just provide a class or two, have been so popular that the schools have had to use lottery systems to pick students.

The rest of the district’s 10,000 kindergarten students, including losers in the lottery, go to the typical half-day kindergarten.

“We’ve never looked at this in terms of a liability issue,” Haldeman said. “We’ve looked at how much good we can do for the most people with the money provided.”

The state currently pays $18.3 million for full-day kindergarten at 124 schools in Clark County. The governor’s budget adds full-day kindergarten to 75 more Clark County schools.

Approximately 4,800 more students will get full-day kindergarten under the program.

Unless legislators can find a way to pay for universal full-day kindergarten, the three-tiered system will remain when school begins this fall.

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  1. We have now come to the crossroads of what is ethically and morally wrong within the current educational delivery system. ALL students should by the US Constitution, be served EQUALLY, and without discrimination, nor distintion. I guess they rather pay for lawyers and lawsuit awards than make it equitable. A few less coaches, or strategests (those being groomed in the administrative loop and don't directly serve students) would more than pay for the shortage.

    The State of Nevada(Governor Sandoval) wants to be recognized as trying to address the long term problem of illiteracy by promoting education, yet falls way short, even to the point of bringing this all to the courts to be hammered out, therefore taking even MORE time, costing countless lives being short changed. It is a shell game of sorts, politically. It serves to make the Governor appear addressing the problem, but the problem becomes even more pronounced, which will come back to bite him.

    The Southern Nevada school districts are already strapped for cash, yet the State mandates this and doesn't cover the costs. What a mess!

    Here is hoping someone in Washington, D.C., is watching this and will assist, or intervene in the situation.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. I would suggest that people complaining about paying for full day kindergarten think about how much it would cost to have private daycare and babysitters.....and if they're not interested in paying for full day kindergarten, they can have private childcare, i guarantee it would cost more than 3200 a year.

    And yes, this does pose problems for single income families, and people in that 30k range. But what kind of problems did they run in to financially if they were paying for daycare? Yes, having kids costs money. Your largest pay raise is when your kid hits first grade in public schools. Congratulations, you decided to have a child!!

  3. I would suggest that people complaining about paying for full day kindergarten go get a lawyer and sue the state & county school district. You will win. There is more than enough evidence to prove that there is a complete lack of parity in our education system. (Lawyer fees are usually paid for by the losing party in these cases; the state is end up paying your lawyer.)

    You will set a precedence that will force our courage lacking political leaders to abide by what the state constitution requires. (For many years these have completely ignored it at the request of business interests.)

    You will also win enough money to recover previous money spent and possible future costs of education for your child. (College savings accounts come to mind.)

  4. We need to find money for full day Kindergarten for every child. Vegas money needs to stay in Vegas. The unfairness in Nevada's public education system is causing a severe crisis in Vegas. The lawsuits that will occur are going to cost MORE than adequately funding our system. The inequity is severe. And people are beginning to notice. We cannot continue like this in a state full of money and gold. We need to take care of our children. And the Nevada State Constitution requires adequate funding. Last in most areas is not adequate.