Practically Speaking

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.

Elmbrook School Board candidates weigh in on 4K

4-K, Education, Elections, Elmbrook

Last week, the article K4 back on the table in Elmbrook on Brookfieldnow caused quite a stir. The way it was written, it led people to believe that 2 board members who previously voted against 4K were now thinking about it. The article was heavy on the positive effects of 4K on the school budget without much detail regarding the negatives to the taxpayer.


Newspaper reporters frequently misquote or misreport--not necessarily maliciously but because they just don't get the nuance of the situation. The remedy is a correction. Unfortunately, most people who read the original article never see the correction. When an election is just 2 weeks away, a misleading article can be damaging.


When I read the article, I thought the statement regarding Meg Wartman and Glen Allgaier's position did not ring true. So I emailed them and the remaining school board candidates so they could clarify their positions. Meg and Glen's explanations regarding the meeting and revisiting 4K will be at the bottom of this posting.


Here are the candidates' responses to my 2 questions, just as they were sent to me. (I did break up some of the longer responses for easier web reading.): Are you for 4K? Would you vote for 4K as a way to increase Elmbrook's budget revenue knowing it costs the Elmbrook taxpayer more?


I will start with the At Large board position. 

Meg Wartman:

This first response was from my Feb 15th question to her regarding a private pay parent funded 4K program:

"As far as 4K, I would not support any 4K program that was funded using taxpayer dollars.  My expectation would be that the parent would pay the entire tuition amount.

Here is her most recent response to state her position since the article:

 "I have not changed from my past position of the program. I do not believe we should to ask taxpayers to fund a four year old kindergarten program.  If by future consideration the District is willing to look at some sort of option that would allow for a private pay 4K program that could be offered at district buildings then I would be willing to revisit the issue.  However, that discussion would need to occur within a context of our long range financial plan and future facility use.

Charles Wickens:

" Regarding 4K - My position is crystal clear with this. I do not support any tax base increase for 4K.  Also, we do need effective leaderhip to address the issue. In the face of declining student enrollment and a 10M budget deficit - we as a distict are turning way about 350 family's per year ( assuming about 350 enrollments at 5k/year) with no options. I propose that we provide an option to those families that need 4K services by providing leaderhship/curriculum, perhaps space to a private provider - resulting in a pass-through cost, allows the district to capture the family and student with content that will prepare the student for an Elmbrook 5K slot and lastly but not leastly - address this growing need for young working families.

I did ask for a little clarification. "Could you define 'I do not support any tax base increase for 4K'? There is state aid, fed. aid, and Elmbrook property taxes. The district has looked longingly at the additional 4K state aid dollars disregarding the increase to the community member's property tax bills."

"Regarding my approach vs yours ...would love the discussion - possibly come up with a hybrid plan that would actually meet our communities needs. We can't continually stick our heads in the sand and pretent that this will go away.  I want to bring clarity to this issue which has been lacking in past discussions.

"To be clear - our programs need to compete at the 5K - 12th grade level.  I do not support an increase to the community member property tax bill to support a 4K program.

 "The state is totally confused with the 4k issue -- i.e. funding and aid etc.  Again - lack of clarity. The state needs a best practice to feed from...Elmbrook could provide this.

"Our state leaderhsip has failed young working families too long -- time for Elmbrook to provide the leadership and roadmap to the state by addressing this issue without imposing a tax burden to the community.

In another email from Wickens yesterday:

"1) I believe that Elmbrook should compete at the 5k-12th grade level

"2) I do not support a property tax based 4k program - i.e. no tax burden

"3) I do believe we need to address the issue.  We have approximately 350 children come into our 5K programs annually.   Today, we don't have any option for those families (as many as 350) for 4K. I believe that this is unacceptable. I support an option that will allow parents to enroll in a private 4k program that has Elmbrook approved curriculum, leadership in terms of delivery and performance criteria.  Those parents would engage in these Elmbrook 4K approved programs and pay for them as a direct payment.  This would give our parents an option and prepare their child nicely for an Elmbrook 5K program.  Win/Win.

The Area 4 position.

Jean Lambert:

"I am happy to provide you with my position on 4K.

"Since the Elmbrook School District 4K pilot program a number of years ago, I have been opposed to taxpayer-funded preschool. I firmly believe that the School Board and Administration are stewards of the finite pool of district resources. We must assure that these resources are dedicated to optimal student learning. Research shows the educational benefits of 4K accrue to disadvantaged children - very few live within our district; the main advantage cited for 4K in the suburbs is that of socialization. Many 4 year olds in the district - including my own -  have been socialized in private 4K programs, at the family's expense.
"With the many revenue challenges that face us in the coming years, I believe it is unconscionable to impose yet another tax increase on the citizens of this community for programming that will deliver socialization benefits that should rightfully be funded by the families of preschool children. Some argue that children who begin 4K in a private/parochial setting never return to the public school setting. However, I'm told that the Elmbrook School District ratio of public/private enrollment has maintained at a steady rate of approximately 70/30%, in spite of the lack of availability of publicly funded 4K.
"Some advocate 4K as a solution to declining enrollment: add ~300 more students via 4K, fill up the empty classrooms, and add significant revenue to the budget. They're forgetting that those revenues are a direct result of increased taxation at both the state and local level. Whether it's state or local taxation, taxpayers are funding preschool.
"I do wholeheartedly support partnerships between the district and local private preschool programs, with Elmbrook School District collaborating on the curriculum to ensure a smooth transition to the 5K program offered by the District. Tuition for this 4K option would be privately funded by families participating in the program. 

Donald Moore:

"I haven't made up my mind regarding 4K and I am still open to arguments. Not having been involved in the initial board decisions much of the information I've received in the past two months has been piecemeal and not authoritative. I understand the arguments for both sides of the issue.  When 4K comes up again I will closely examine both sides and make my decision on what I think is best for our young students and the community."

Now for the clarification on what occured at the school board meeting. First from Meg Wartman:

"I appreciate your following up and verifying the statement.  I made no comment on revisiting 4K other than to state that it was too late in the year to look at offering 4K in 2009 - 2010 (something Mr. Ziegler had hoped the district would take a look at) and facilitate the discussion.  If the BrookfieldNow reporter felt there was an openness to a 4K discussion I believe it was to allow simply for that, a discussion.  I think it is important to explain that board protocol would allow any board member to ask that an item be on a future agenda for discussion.

"I did not interpret Glen's comments to be pro 4K.  I believe he directly stated that he held the same reservations about the program that he had held when the board voted in 2007.  Overall there was a certain politeness in listening to a fellow board member's concern and willingness to allow the board member his 'day in court'.

"Mr. Ziegler was certainly more direct in his comments and was clearly asking the board to consider reinstating 4K as soon as possible.

Her comments did ring true to what I have heard each board member express in the past. She sent this additional email after she watched the cable broadcast:

"I still cannot understand how the BrookfieldNow reporter interpreted any of my comments to be pro-4K or even showing any interest in pursuing the program further.  The board members that spoke in response to Mr. Ziegler's request clearly indicated that they did not feel their positions had changed.  However, as I mentioned earlier, Mr. Ziegler made a formal request that 4K be a topic of discussion at a future board meeting and such requests have always been honored by the board.

And lastly, board member Glen Allgaier's stance on 4K (He is not running for the board at this time, but was misrepresented in the article):

"I do not support 4K because (a)  It offers no clear educational benefits and (b)  the cost would require increased property taxes.  There are some members of the Board who still would like to see 4K and who felt that, given our financial needs, we should consider all options.  I would anticipate such a discussion will only increase public awareness regarding the 4K issues and why the Board voted to not continue it.

Brookfieldnow did post an update on that K4 article:

Board member Meg Wartman said the program could not be implemented so quickly. In a later statement, she said she believes the board is still opposed to K4, though some members may be willing to discuss the issue.

"I am not supportive of revisiting 4K at this time," she said.

So there you have it--the ins and outs of who is for 4K and who is not. I hope this shed some light on this very important issue. Remember, while 4K would increase the dollar amount the school district had at their disposal, it does it at taxpayer expense! It also will eventually lead to more building referendums to increase the size of the elementary schools. I am glad some of the candidates understand the ramifications of 4K's impact on Elmbrook resident's property tax bills!


The election is Tuesday, April 7th. We not only vote for 2 candidates for school board, but also for Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction and Supreme Court Justice. Elm Grove residents vote for 3 Village Trustees.


UPDATE: Rose Fernandez will be interviewed on WVCY TV 30 tonight at 7:30pm.


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