What Would You Do if There Was No Kindergarten to Send Your Child To?

Surely most parents across the United States look forward to the day they can send their kids off to kindergarten, where they will presumably begin to build the skills that will carry them through their academic careers. But suppose this possibility did not exist? Some states are proposing to do away with kindergarten in the face of massive budget cuts. So where will this leave our children?

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Transitional Kindergarten

In September 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California signed into law the Kindergarten Readiness Act, requiring children to have turned five years old by September 1st rather than December 2nd in order to enter kindergarten.

In response, a new grade level, known as transitional kindergarten, was created for children turning five between September and December.

But Schwarzenegger is out of office now, and the current governor, Jerry Brown, is planning to cut this new program as one of several ways in which to trim the budget. Among other things, the plan would save on teachers' salaries.

It is believed that more than 120,000 children - and subsequently their parents - will be affected by the law, which would take full effect in 2014.

'Limited Resources'

As shocking as it sounds, the idea to eliminate kindergarten is not a new one. While California calls for the elimination of a new program, some districts across the country have proposed cutting not a transitional grade level but actual kindergarten!

From New York to Idaho, schools are looking to save money by doing away with kindergarten. Some have questioned the legality of the proposed moves, citing federal responsibility for delivering a public education to all children.

But, as in the case of California, officials claim that 'state laws do not explicitly say whether school districts are required to offer kindergarten', The Orange County Register reported in February 2009.

'It's not about the value of the programs,' Shawn Farr, Chief Operating Officer for the Harrisburg School District in Pennsylvania, told Pennsylvania's Fox News in September 2010. 'It's about the limited resources that we have.'

Parents Pay the Price

As expected, no kindergarten would impose several problems for parents across the country. Perhaps, for instance, a mother or father might have stayed home with their child during the pre-K years but has fully expected to return to work once kindergarten starts.

These parents, unfortunately, would be forced to delay their plans for another year, possibly placing a financial burden on the family.

And for many working parents, no kindergarten would mean an extra year of paying for preschool or some other care, in many cases straining household budgets.

'Now I'm going to have to scramble to find another pre-K program. It's going to be even more expensive,' Kellie Little, a Marin County, California mother told The Huffington Post in response to Gov. Brown's proposal.

California Senator Joe Simitian said, 'It's an immense hardship on the families, and it's not good for the kids.'

Kindergarten: Dispensable or Foundational?

But, some might argue, is kindergarten little more than a glorified daycare? In Idaho in early 2011, proposed legislation called for deep cuts to the public kindergarten budget.

At the time, state Rep. Steve Thayn was quoted on KVTB.com as asking, 'Are we providing daycare or are we providing an academic environment?'

With many states imposing standards on what is learned in kindergarten (in some cases, kindergarteners are learning what used to be taught in first grade), many would argue that kindergarten could prepare students for success in later grades.

Jen Baumeister of Shoreham, New York, where kindergarten is also threatened by budget cuts, said in a NorthShoreSun.com article in March 2011: 'I don't want to lose kindergarten. I think that kindergarten teachers set the foundation.'

If some legislators in the United States have their way, many parents will unfortunately see that foundation crumble.

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