The Kyrene School District Governing Board voted on Tuesday to continue the current, tuition-free, all-day kindergarten model for the 2012-13 school year.
In a unanimous vote governing board members voted to continue the program after months of hearing different scenarios and how discontinuing it in favor of a tuition-based model would have a long-term, negative impact to the district's financial future.
In providing all-day kindergarten the district will have to make up about $1.6 million for the 2012-13 budget. By passing the all-day kindergarten model, they are currently looking at roughly a $5.6 million budget shortfall.
Before putting it to a vote, governing board member Ross Robb wanted to confirm whether or not a half-day model, for families either unwilling or unable to pay tuition for full-day, would provide an adequate amount of time to teach state-mandated curriculum.
"This curriculum cannot be administered in anything less than all-day kindergarten," said Carrie Furedy, assistant director of educational services for Kyrene, who added that this came after "a significant amount of study" by a kindergarten study team, teachers and administrators.
The governing board, Superintendent David Schauer, and interim chief financial officer Jeremy Calles discussed where in the current budget cutbacks could be made to bridge the estimated $5.6 million budget gap.
Calles presented three scenarios, interchanging high and low cuts resulting from changes to areas like the middle school model, transportation, and educational coaches. The range was between $3.7 million and $7.7 million.
There are two areas Calles outlined that could automatically save the district about $2.9 million.
A transfer of $1 million from the Capital Outlay Revenue Limit (CORL) - a funding source dedicated to maintenance and operations or the Unrestricted Capital Fund - could be made to another area in lieu of the budget override passed by voters in November. They can also save approximately $1.9 million in insurance prepayments.
Just before the vote, board member Bernadette Coggins and newly elected board vice president Beth Brizel added an amendment that no changes to the middle school model would be made without the consent of the governing board. This came after several parents came forward with concerns about if and how funding kindergarten will affect other grade levels.
One parent said making a decision at this date would be "fiscally irresponsible" because of her concerns that the governing board had not heard all possible budget scenarios and they had not explored the possible outcomes of making the decision that night.
She said, "While the board has received some budget information, it is not enough to make an informed, complete decision regarding the entire Kyrene budget."
Another parent added, "The ADK (all-day kindergarten) parent supporters will be deceived if they think this decision will not impact them in a few years when their child is struggling and could benefit from a classroom aid (and) one will not be available."
Ross rebutted those statements, saying "I could not disagree with that more," and went on to say, "I can assure you that we are not fiscally irresponsible and we are not deceiving anybody, and we never have and we never will."
Board president Michelle Hirsch added, "What we asked for is options and some of those options have been explored - different models (with) tuition options... I think that while it is frustrating that we are ... given either approve ADK for free or not, those are the two options that have been put in front of us at this time."
She added that, "Support for kindergarten does not in any way shape or form not supporting middle school students... Any changes to middle school ... will have to be looked at carefully."
In the coming months, the board with have to make a decision on which areas to change to balance the 2012-13 budget.
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