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Monfredo: Shame On Our Elected Officials Who Didn’t Support The Kindergarten Grant

Sunday, July 17, 2016

 

“Experts tell us that 90% of all brain development occurs by the age of five. If we don't begin thinking about education in the early years, our children are at risk of falling behind by the time they start Kindergarten."- Robert. L. Ehrlich

Based on that quote what were the Governor and the legislators thinking about when they did not fund the Kindergarten Grant? “Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, stated, “ the cuts will hurt, especially because many school districts have been expecting that money to cover full-time kindergarten costs for the coming year.”

Many districts, such as Worcester, approved their budgets with the expectation of continued funding, and in Worcester both the School Committee and administration were shocked by this cut.  We will have to make up the difference, either through budget reductions or eliminate the 21 instructional aides’ positions.   All of us thought that the grant (at least we were led to believe,) would be funded until the state’s foundation budget was addressed and the Commission’s report would be enacted to some degree.

As the Chief Financial officer, Brian Allen, stated in a letter to the school committee “Worcester Public Schools relies on its support personnel to deliver high quality teaching and learning throughout our schools and programs.  Instructional Assistants play a significant role in supporting students’ academic, behavioral and developmental needs.  At the kindergarten level, IA’s are strategically assigned to classrooms experiencing large student enrollments or with a specific student population that requires additional support to ensure that core instruction is maximized.”

We all know that the research shows that early childhood education pays dividends over time and the need of an IA (another adult) in the kindergarten helps to meet the needs of our young students.  One kindergarten teacher stated in a response to the cuts, “Politicians have never taught in a classroom of 27 or more students in an urban setting.  If they did they would realize that it is not fair to the students. We are in an age of accountability for the state requires so much from the teacher and yet we are not giving our teachers the needed resources to do the job… doesn’t anyone care? “

In Worcester we have about 90 kindergarten classrooms and 47 are expected to have enrollments of 23 or more students next year.  Most surrounding school districts (those that have the ability to spend well above the state’s underfunded foundation budget level) have an instructional assistant in EVERY classroom.  I made the motion that we gradually move in that direction year by year and this cut is a blow for early educational needs. In my experience as a principal I see having an IA in the room usually benefits our students in the following ways: improved social skills, less or no need for special education instruction during subsequent school years, better grades, and enhanced attention spans. 

Again, I am dismayed that this lack of support for the Kindergarten Grant could take place, and disappointed in the Governor and those legislators who did not include the grant in their final budget.  

It appears, unless the funding comes from another source, there will be an instructional assistant in less than half our kindergarten classrooms next year which is most unacceptable… how sad for our students and for our teachers.

Mayor Petty, Superintendent Binienda and City Manger Augustus will be meeting soon to see if they could figure out if additional city money could be supplemented to offset the cost of the grant.

I urge all of our readers to contact the Governor’s office and our local delegation and voice your concerns.  I know that I will!

 

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