Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.
Wisconsin changed from a very blue state to very red one last November, with the election of Republican Governor Scott Walker and a Republican majority in the Assembly and State Senate. And from all appearances, it seems we will no longer continue business as usual (or more accurately spending as usual) on government programs that don't work.
Our state is in a serious fiscal crisis, being $3 billion in the red, in this budget cycle. We must look at how we spend our money and then eliminate those line items that do not show benefit. Just because we have had a program in the past is no longer reason enough to continue that program.
One such program is 4K. State Senator Glenn Grothman has talked about defunding 4K several times in recent weeks. His reason? It doesn't work, and it is EXPENSIVE!
Grothman states: "Recent studies have confirmed that any academic benefits of government funded preschool disappear by the fourth grade... Studies in Oklahoma, the state which has the model four-year-old program, show a decline in their fourth grade reading scores over the past eleven years, after benefits of their 4K programs should have been realized."(My emphasis)
Since 4K is one of the remedies being considered for Elmbrook's budget woes, it is important we consider the What if Wisconsin defunds 4K? before we rely on its curative powers for our budget.
The number of 4-year-olds in kindergarten has tripled in the last 10 years, and more school districts in our state are proposing it for this year. Last year alone, Grothman stated, "four-year-old kindergarten programs cost this state $140 million in state tax collections and cost local property taxpayers another $82 million." That adds up to $222 Million for a program that doesn't show long term educational benefit. And that is not FREE money, that money comes out of the taxpayers' pockets!
The Madison School District is starting a 4K program this year for an additional $10 Million, and other districts are considering it too. At present, 85% of Wisconsin school districts have a 4K program.
So why are these districts so gung ho on a program that doesn't work? Money. It is a school district budget funding tool.
In Campbellsport, for example, "The district receives an additional $423,000 in state aid for the 70 students enrolled. Cost to employ two teachers and two aides for the program is approximately $164,000." This doesn't reflect all the hidden costs of the program, but it does give you an idea of why 4K is so seductive.
Grothman writes: "For the past 15 years, Wisconsin has encouraged adopting four-year-old kindergarten by allowing school districts as much revenue authority for a four-year-old as they have for their more costly to educate high school students. "
But if there were no state revenue authority or funding for 4K, would Elmbrook still be casting an eye toward starting the program? I sincerely doubt it.
Our board will be discussing 4K and other budget enhancing options such as school closings and increasing non-resident enrollment very soon. I have heard we have our own study of how our pilot program 4K-ers perform, compared to Elmbrook students who didn't attend 4K.
Many of our board members are not in favor of 4K, but the make up of the board will be changing in April with Gary Jones stepping down and Kathryn Wilson up for reelection.
Please contact your representatives about this. Wisconsin and Elmbrook cannot afford to spend precious tax dollars on programs that don't work.
Elmbrook School Board Members
Representative Dale Kooyenga, 14th Assembly District, (608) 266-9180, Rep.Kooyenga@legis.wi.gov
Representative Paul Farrow, 98th Assembly District, (608) 266-5120 Rep.Farrow@legis.wi.gov
Senator Leah Vukmir, 5th Senate District, (608) 266-2512 Sen.Vukmir@legis.wisconsin.gov
Senator Rich Zipperer, 33rd Senate District, (608) 266-9174 Sen.Zipperer@legis.wisconsin.gov
Governor Scott Walker (608) 266-1212 firstname.lastname@example.org
More Reading: Time to Stop the Expansion of Four-year-old Kindergarten
Reason Foundation: Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten