Give parents full-day option

After many years of discussion and speculation, during this most recent session state legislators and ultimately Gov. Jay Inslee approved funding in the state operating budget that will allow for a greater number of schools to offer full-day kindergarten to some students.

As detailed in a article in today’s Post-Record, the funding is a step toward compliance with the Supreme Court McCleary decision, which mandates that lawmakers must fully fund basic education, including kindergarten, by 2018. In its first year, grants for full-day kindergarten at schools with the highest rates of poverty were given first priority.

Due to a reduced price lunch rate of 62.7 percent of students at Washougal’s Hathaway Elementary School, it qualified for the state money. At the moment all other schools in Camas and Washougal continue to offer the half-day option.

Full-day kindergarten and its benefits and drawbacks have been issues long debated by parents and educators. Not all 5-year-olds are created equal. Particularly at this age, kids’ personalities, abilities and comfort levels are often vastly different. Some students might be ready to jump-in to a full school-day situation and really thrive in their newfound independence. Others might not be ready to handle the pressure and expectations quite as well, and would be better off in the long run slowly easing into a full-time situation.

In Portland Public Schools, parents can send their students to either full or half-day kindergarten. In this “fee-for-service” model, the state covers only the cost of half-day kindergarten, so the second half of the school day is either covered through federal funding or is tuition based. Students that qualify for federal free or reduced-priced meals program qualify for a tuition waiver.

The Camas School District floated this idea several years ago at the encouragement of a group of parents. But it was ultimately set aside due to lack of enough interest.

As discussion about the pros and cons of full-day kindergarten heats up again, it might be time again for both school districts to consider this fee-for-service option. Because in the end parents are really the ones who know their children best, and should be the ones to decide whether their child is really ready for a full-day kindergarten situation.