School Funding Cuts Claim Another Victim: Full-Day Kindergarten

By Sarah Garland. On a recent June morning, six-year-olds Ethan Lee and Adrian D’Souza were hunched over a book about sharks in their kindergarten classroom at James Madison Primary School in Edison. Ethan read the chapter titles to Adrian.

“Shark attacks!” Adrian piped up when Ethan asked which chapter he wanted. Ethan began breezing through words like “surfboard,” pausing only briefly to sound out “tugged.”

Like most kindergarteners, at the beginning of the year Ethan couldn’t read at all. After a year of daily reading and writing workshops at his full-day kindergarten, he now reads books and even writes his own.

Full-day kindergarten has spread rapidly in recent years as a part of national efforts to increase the rigor of elementary school, raise tests scores and increase learning in higher grades. But next year, kindergartners at James Madison may not advance so quickly: The district is poised to switch to half days in the midst of New Jersey’s $11 billion budget crisis.

Across the country, other districts are also gutting kindergarten programs as they try to balance school budgets amid fiscal crises. Arizona has eliminated funding for full-day kindergarten. Districts in Pennsylvania, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan also are considering cuts. Chicago was planning to end its full-day program until the state legislature gave the district a last-minute budget reprieve. Read More.