Senator Saland Comments On Board Of Regents Plan To Start School At Age 5 Andmandate Full-day Kindergarten

Stephen M. Saland

January 11, 2006

Senator Steve Saland (R,C Poughkeepsie), Chair, Senate Education Committee, today remarked on the Board of Regents plan to start school at age 5 and mandate full-day kindergarten. Changing the school start age from 6 to 5 would require a change in statute. Presently, 79 districts in New York State do not offer full-day kindergarten to all students. Some of these 79 offer a longer day for students requiring additional academic assistance.

"Not only are the Regents not funding their proposal but they have not established that the existence of half day kindergarten is detrimental to a child’s education," said Senator Saland. "Given existing data I am not convinced that full day kindergarten would provide significant benefits. The number of students performing at level 4, the highest level on state exams, actually exceeds the state average by approximately 25% in schools without complete full day kindergarten"

The two largest school districts in the 41st Senate District are Arlington Central School District and Wappingers Central School District neither of which provides full day kindergarten.

"We did an academic study of the viability of full day kindergarten over a year ago," said Frank Pepe, Superintendent, Arlington Central School District.

"Although we would see the benefit for many students the board and I agree that we have neither the buildings nor the staff to move forward with a program. We would not want to further burden our property taxpayers."

The percentage of students meeting state standards for Math 4 in non-full day kindergarten districts was 92.93% with the state average being 84.9%.

The percentage of students meeting state standards for English 4 in non-full day kindergarten districts was 82.23% with the state average being 70.40%.

The Wappingers Central School District Board of Education expressed the following concerns about the actions by the Regents in a letter sent to Senator Saland:

"While there may be good reasons to offer this opportunity to children, there has been virtually no discussion with local districts on the impact of such a requirement on local resources," Wappingers Central School District, Board of Education. "Depending upon the implementation date, 1-3 years, we estimate a range for operating costs (salaries, benefits, supplies) of $1.1-$1.6 million dollars.

"Since I have been the Chair on the Senate Education Committee I have worked to avoid any unfunded mandates on our school districts," said Senator Saland. "Mandating full-day kindergarten and a starting age of 5 would certainly result in substantial costs incurred by school districts. I think the decision to include full day kindergarten is better left in the hands of individual districts."