Board consensus to offer full-day kindergarten only
The St. Michael-Albertville School District relayed concerns about a continued funding disparity gap to area legislators Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer and Rep. David FitzSimmons.
Supt. Jim Behle presented the general education revenue per pupil bar chart that shows STMA ranks 327 out of 336 state school districts in revenue per pupil. STMA gets $6,682 per pupil revenue, whereas the state average is $9,037.
Behle said the new funding legislation won’t help STMA reduce the gap in school funding disparity, and thus would begin deficit spending next year. He reiterated that STMA’s main source of income is from the state’s basic formula.
School board chairperson Doug Birk said STMA, Albertville and St. Michael are working together to help spread the news about the funding plight. Birk said STMA is not asking for more money, but rather a rational allocation to equalize the current funding. He stressed that STMA students shouldn’t be treated differently because of geographic location.
Birk said that based on current funding, the board would need to make very difficult cuts in four to six years. He asked Kiffmeyer and FitzSimmons to ensure some sense of urgency and press for reform. He also pointed out that the funding disparity removes competitiveness for attracting and maintaining teachers and students.
School districts with 2,000 students or more outside of the seven-county metro can levy a Local Equity Index for an additional $212 per pupil, whereas school districts within the metro can levy $424. For that reason, Supt. Behle said the long-term effect would be a greater metro/rural gap in per pupil funding.
Behle suggested to the legislators that the LEI definition be changed to include STMA with the districts receiving $424. FitzSimmons said one way to be included would be to use the definition of the metro census area.
Kiffmeyer added that she would continue to work for fairness, and FitzSimmons said he would continue to maintain visibility for funding inequality awareness.
In other news, the board heard from Albertville Primary School Principal and district curriculum director Ann-Marie Foucault regarding full-day kindergarten.
She said the timeline includes a parent information session (Nov. 11) and recommendations to the board Dec. 2, followed by board approval of the plan in January.
According to a district survey, 15 percent indicated they would be interested in a half-day option.
Foucault presented two kindergarten programming options: full-day only or full-day with a half-day option. She said if parents choose the half-day option, they would be combined within the full-day classes. Half-day students would all be morning kindergarten students, with transportation provided in the morning and parent pick up at 11 a.m.
Foucault said there is adequate space at the primary school to house full-day kindergarten, and that the curriculum department would relocate to Middle School east, and Early Childhood Secondary Education to St. Michael Elementary School.
Supt. Behle said that at this time he is more inclined to recommend a full-day only option, with no half-day option, stating that current data shows greater first grade readiness for those students who attend full-day kindergarten. He also said first grade teachers shared that those students were better prepared for the basic organization of a first grade year, and that kindergarten teachers who were part of the committee spoke and recommended a full-day option as well.
Board members Birk, Drew Scherber, Gayle Weber, Jeanne Holland, Carol Steffens and Jeff Lindquist discussed the matter and recognized the need to set a board policy. The board’s consensus was to only offer a full-day kindergarten option; to make a decision regarding transportation at a later date; and to support hiring an assistant kindergarten principal.
The board also said it would continue to review and discuss full-day kindergarten based on a community information night, committee recommendations and budget information.
In other action, the board:
HEARD from STMA Clay Trapshooting Team Coach Scott Berning. He said all seniors would be on the team, and that every participant who does not make the team would be offered a spot in the summer program.