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All day kindergarten unlikely

March 9, 2011

Holding the line on school time.

ANGELENA CHAPMAN
achapman@ricentral.com

School Committee Vice Chair Nancy Sprengelmeyer came out against all-day kindergarten in a letter to the Rhode Island House of Representatives, despite thinking it is “absolutely the best” for children.
Despite being in support of all-day kindergarten from an educator’s point-of-view, Sprengelmeyer testified against it for financial reasons.
In a Feb. 9 letter to the Rhode Island House of Representatives that is signed by Sprengelmeyer and Superintendent of Coventry Public Schools Michael Convery they write that it would be “fiscally impossible” to implement such a program at this time.
The bill, H 5049, was introduced by Rep. Roberto DaSilva (D-East Providence, Pawtucket) and Rep. Raymond Johnston, Jr. (D-Pawtucket).
It would require all districts in the state to have all-day kindergarten, or in other words to increase the hours a kindergartener must attend class. It would require students to be in class five and a half hours per day.
The letter to representatives on behalf of Coventry states that, “While both the Coventry Public Schools’ administrative team and its School Committee members unanimously support the concept of all-day kindergarten, the cost to implement this program would be a fiscally-impossible undertaking at this time.”
The letter says it would be “cost-prohibitive without a guarantee of a State-funding source.”
At their Tuesday night meeting Sprengelmeyer asked Rep. Lisa Tomasso, who was in attendance, about the status of the bill.
Tomasso told the school committee that she did not see the bill coming to the floor because representatives were realizing the impact of sending a bill to communities with “a fiscal note attached.”
At the Feb. 14 town council meeting where Sprengelmeyer shared the letter with council members, Councilman Raymond Spear called it “another unfunded mandate.”

Council President Gary Cote asked that night how many communities have all-day kindergarten.
Tomasso said that 17 do, 12 do not and the rest have a combination of something in between.
How much would adding all-day kindergarten cost Coventry?
A cost sheet was prepared by the administration and attached to the letter. It projects costs of just over $2 million to the district to implement all-day kindergarten. Most notably it would require the district to reopen Oak Haven Elementary School, which was closed in 2009 to save money.
Eight additional kindergarten teachers would be needed at an estimated cost of $773,112.
The letter also mentions the request the district has already made to the town this year “for a substantial increase in [their] FY2012 budget” as a result of “mandated increases.” Any additional expenditure would exceed the Senate 3050 allowable tax increase, the letter states.
The letter lists “contractual increases for certified staff, a [three percent] increase for health insurance, a [four percent] increase for dental insurance, and a mandated increase of approximately [two percent] in our certified pension contribution as set by the State” as those items already impacting the FY2012 budget.
“For these aforementioned reasons, we are opposing the passage of this legislation at this time,” the letter concludes.

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