Our #7 selection was also Franklin’s most under-reported story, getting almost zero coverage in 2018.
On October 24, 2018, the Franklin School Board voted 6-1 to approve implementing a four-year-old kindergarten program. Board member Larry Gamble was the lone “no” vote.
A source close to Franklin Public Schools told me he was very surprised this issue that had been researched for several months didn’t get more attention and public scrutiny.
“Putting a 4K program in place makes sense, not only for the district but for the Franklin community as a whole,” said Board of Education President, Janet Evans. “I think we take for granted that all Franklin students have access to 4K through the excellent private preschool choices in the community. The reality is that not all students do, due to finances, transportation, or other family reasons. The decision we made gives all 4K families access to an equal learning opportunity.”
“Research has shown that students who attend preschool compared to students who do not participate, generally have a greater degree of success in school and in life,” said the Director of Teaching & Learning at Franklin Public Schools, Chris Reuter.
Following the vote, Board Vice President Tim Nielson delivered quite the overstatement, calling it “a historic day” for Franklin.
There are pros and cons when it comes to the concept of K4.
Preschool programs are intended to offer families of all financial backgrounds with more supportive educational options for children of a younger age. There is, however, a benefit seen for lower-income families who aren’t able to secure adequate child care, resulting in children left at home with televisions instead of teachers.
According to “Head Start,” children enrolled in early education programs receive a variety of benefits, such as: “school readiness by focusing on the child’s development in: language and literacy, early math, social skills, self-help, nature and science; daily meals; close review of health history; active ‘hands on’ involvement in learning.”
Darcy Ann Olsen has a different perspective. She was director of education and child policy at the Cato Institute where she explored education reform policies and private initiatives to strengthen the K-12 educational system. Prior to joining Cato Olsen served as a transitional house manager for the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless.
Most advocates of public preschool argue that early schooling of low-income children is an investment that pays off in the long term by reducing the number of children who will perform poorly in school, become teenage parents, commit criminal acts, or depend on welfare. Other advocates of public preschool see it as a way to subsidize child care.
Experience provides little reason to believe universal preschool would significantly benefit children, regardless of family income. For nearly 40 years, local, state, and federal governments and diverse private sources have funded early intervention programs for low-income children, and benefits to the children have been few and fleeting. There is also evidence that middle-class children gain little, if anything, from preschool. Benefits to children in public preschools are unlikely to be greater or more enduring.
Public preschool for younger children is irresponsible, given the failure of the public school system to educate the children currently enrolled. The desire to ‘do something’ for young children should be tempered by the facts, and proposals for universal preschool should be rejected.
It must be emphasized that Franklin is not a failing school system. However the question raised about K4 across America can also appropriately be asked here: Should taxpayers be paying for services they may not be using?
There is also the inescapable assertion that K4 essentially amounts to subsidized glorified daycare.
Franklin plans to run the 4K program next fall in each of the five district elementary schools and will be offered as both a.m. and p.m. half-day sessions. Registration has already begun.
During a presentation to the board at its October 24th meeting it was mentioned that K4 would result in a slight tax increase initially, but then taxes would decrease. Sorry, but I’m unaware of any government program, especially one of this size, that will reduce taxes.
In the end there was a larger issue at play here again. The School Board that rarely displays any independent thinking one more time rubber stamped an administration directive. Maybe in 2019 the taxpayer-elected board will finally understand the administration works for them, not vice versa.
At the October 24, 2018 board meeting after the 6-1 vote was taken on K4 the small crowd in attendance made up mostly of Franklin school officials clapped enthusiastically in support.
Ultimately K4 could work and be quite popular in Franklin. As policy analyst Olsen noted, though, K4 is not a golden ticket. There’s plenty of ammunition for a two-sided debate that can be heated when it comes to this topic. But in apathetic Franklin that wasn’t the case during 2018.
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The District plans to run the 4K program in each of the five district elementary schools and will be offered as both a.m. and p.m. half-day sessions.
“We are very excited to offer Four-year-old kindergarten in the fall,” said Dr. Judy Mueller, Superintendent of Franklin Public Schools. “As a district, much of our focus is on the important work of equity, personal growth, stewardship, and wellbeing. With 4K in place next fall, we will make great progress in these areas.”
Registration will begin in early December. Residents can follow the district Facebook page, @franklinpublicschools, or check-in regularly at www.franklin.k12.wi.us for information regarding how to register.