The Scottsdale Unified School District governing board heard nothing but praise Tuesday night for a proposed budget override that would fund free full-day kindergarten.
A budget override for kindergarten through third grade would fulfill Superintendent John Baracy’s goal of stopping declining enrollment and keeping Scottsdale competitive with neighboring districts.
District officials have said they believe that if children start kindergarten in the Tempe Elementary or Paradise Valley Unified school districts, they would not return to Scottsdale for first grade.
The Paradise Valley district began offering free full-day kindergarten this year.
Kiva Elementary School kindergarten teacher Marsha Sturla told the board of advantages of two daily sessions offered at Kiva. She said children coming from a full-day program are better prepared, their literacy skills are stronger and they spend more time on tasks.
Board clerk Karen Beckvar was concerned that Hopi, Cheyenne and Desert Canyon elementary schools were at or near capacity. Service learning director John Baird said hiring instructional aides would help lower class sizes. The district’s goal is to reduce class size to approximately 21 students per teacher.
Budget director Bob Flach said the kindergarten through third grade program would need $3.2 million annually for seven years for the district’s 20 elementary schools. Most of the money would be used to hire certified kindergarten teachers. The $3.2 million would add 4 cents to the tax rate. That would cost a homeowner $16.39 per year, or $1.37 per month, without growth in assessed value of property. Before Tuesday’s meeting Molly Holzer, Eric Meyer and Jennifer Petersen, elected to the board on Nov. 2, were sworn in. They will take office Jan. 1. Meyer was concerned that an override campaign would be held at the same time state education committee chairman Sen. John Huppenthal, RChandler, is mounting a fight against funding statewide full-day kindergarten.