Tue, Aug. 20

State budget cuts would eliminate full-day kindergarten in local schools

VERDE VALLEY - Gov. Jan Brewer is proposing more cuts to education on top of those already proposed and already made. Two of her proposed cuts would directly affect local elementary school districts.

Brewer proposes cutting support for full-day kindergarten by $180 million statewide. She also proposes cutting all remaining $100 million from soft capital statewide.

"These cuts really hurt," said Kathleen Fleenor, superintendent of Clarkdale-Jerome School District.

She said that out of the 41 kindergarten students that started school this year, 32 percent scored "at risk" on the reading initial sound fluency and their letter naming fluency. She explained that an "at risk" label indicates that substantial intervention is needed.

Fleenor said another 17 percent scored "some risk" on the assessment, meaning additional intervention is needed.

"In other words," Fleenor said, "forty-nine percent of kindergarten students need additional help to meet the state required reading goals.

"Through all day kindergarten we have been able to get 99 percent of our students up to grade level in reading by the end of the year."

Cottonwood-Oak Creek District Superintendent Barbara U'Ren said the loss of the kindergarten money would cost the district $550,000.

"This amount would have a significant effect upon our programs," U'Ren said. "If you consider an average teacher's salary with benefits to be $45,000, 12 teachers could be affected by this reduction."

U'Ren said the district would be forced to look at moving to a half-day kindergarten program and also to eliminate other programs.

The Governor's proposed cut of soft capital also would have serious fallout for elementary districts.

U'Ren said soft capital is used for day-to-day supplies for students and teachers. "It is paper, pencils, textbooks and technology for the classroom," she said.

She said it is disheartening because the district has worked hard to get its classrooms up to speed with technology.

"This loss will definitely put us behind schedule," U'Ren said. "With the loss of soft capital, we will not replace computers and will use the supplies that we have left in our warehouse to weather this financial storm."

It's the same story at Clarkdale-Jerome School.

"The soft capital cuts will mean no textbooks, no computer supplies, no study guides or workbooks for students," Fleenor said.

She said there would be no funds for furniture and equipment for classrooms or special education equipment.

"Once again our students will be the ones who will be hurt by the cuts," Fleenor said.