Free kindergarten program will deliver

This November 6 voters have the opportunity to decide two ISD 728 ballot issues. The first question renews an existing levy; with passage we will continue to receive $386 per student for the next 10 years. Our second question is for a new levy that, if approved by voters, will provide $400 per student, for the same 10 years. One of the provisions of the second question is free, all-day, every-day kindergarten. Let me share some facts so that you can make informed decisions on Election Day.

Our elementary schools have offered, through Community Education, fee-based, all-day, every other day kindergarten for the past six years. This is beneficial to students whose parents and guardians can afford the $2,700 a year tuition; however, it is disheartening for others who are not in a similar financial position. Through district funds we offer 30 scholarships annually to families who cannot afford the tuition.

This year we have 354 learners enrolled in our 16 all-day, every other day kindergarten classes. We had 464 applications, meaning 110 children are not realizing the benefits of being in kindergarten every day. Consider some of the key benefits:*

•Children enrolled in all-day, every-day kindergarten consistently demonstrate higher academic results; they also develop socially and emotionally faster.

•All-day, every-day kindergarten helps decrease school costs; studies show these children are less likely to repeat grades, receive remedial support or be enrolled in special education.

•Closing the achievement gap is not just a national objective, it is a moral imperative. Every child, regardless of their background, must be afforded the same learning opportunities. All-day, every-day kindergarten closes the achievement gap.

I recognize many of our taxpayers are facing challenging decisions. I understand that this election day you are being asked to vote not only on candidates, but also on a variety of issues. Our two questions are among those for you to consider. As you prepare to vote, all I ask is that you know the facts so you can make informed decisions about our two levy questions. Learn more about the questions and free all-day, every-day kindergarten on our Web site. — Holly Thompson, Zmmerman