Pre-k stays full-day, but with fewer days. Fair compromise?

 Gov. Nathan Deal reversed course today by returning to full-day pre-k. (AJC file)

Gov. Nathan Deal reversed course today by returning to full-day pre-k. (AJC file)

The pre-k lobby is stronger than I thought. Gov. Nathan Deal just reversed his plan to cut the pre-kindergarten program from full-time to part-time, a decision that affected the 84,000 kids in the program and had some parents planning to resort to all-day child care instead.

The governor’s original plan also created despair among early childhood educators, who felt that quality pre-k was critical to Georgia’s aspirations to improve its education system.

“From day one we have worked tirelessly to make sure Georgia’s youngest scholars continue to benefit from the Pre-K program,” said Deal. “It is so important that we keep Georgia Pre-K a priority in order to ensure that students are school ready and on pace to read on grade level by third grade.”

Under Deal’s new plan:

  • The school year will be shortened from 180 to 160 days.
  • Class size will be increased to 22 students from 20. Since all Georgia Pre-K classes have a paraprofessional in the room, the student to teacher ratio will max out at 11 to 1.
  • An additional 2,000 pre-K slots will be added, bringing Georgia pre-k enrollment to 86,000.
  • Providers will receive 94 percent of the operating funds they currently receive. Pre-K teachers will receive 90 percent of their current salaries. (The original half-day proposal included a 30 percent reduction.)

I still wonder about the resistance to limiting pre-k to low-income families. My twins attended state pre-k, which was offered through my school system. But I would have continued them in their good church pre-k had there not been a free option at my local public school.

So, I ask: Should the state have focused on keeping a full-year, full-day for the children whose parents had no other options rather than shrink the school year for all pre-k students?

According to the AJC:

Instead, Deal said he’ll meet the objective of slashing millions of dollars in program spending by cutting the pre-k year from 180 days to 160 days. He’ll still expand pre-k enrollment, but by 2,000, not 5,000 students as first proposed two weeks ago.

“We’ve done a lot of listening over the last two weeks to everybody from public providers, private providers and pre-k teachers,” Erin Hames, Deal’s deputy chief of staff, said shortly before the governor’s news conference. “The greatest concern they all have is with the half-day program. ”

Lopping 20 days off the calendar — which by staff estimates will save about $21 million — in different economic times might seem extreme. But the k-12 school year calendar has already been cut in many school districts — in some cases by 20 or more days — due to the extended economic slump.

But the plan for pre-k, mainly cutting the school day from 6.5 hours to 4 hours, found critics in every camp –  lawmakers, advocates, teachers and parents.

Advocates said a shortened day would go against the national trend and research, showing pre-k helps children be ready for school and can curb the dropout rates and the number of children requiring costly special education services. They also argued that quality teachers would flee the program for full-time employment and that parents, particularly in low-income families, would be overburdened with after-school costs.

Under the governor’s revised plan, pre-k will remain a 6.5 hour a day program and will expand to include an extra 2,000 4-year-olds in the fall.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

138 comments Add your comment

Interested Participant

March 7th, 2011
11:33 am

Who is going to want to teach Pre-K for 10% less? Those teachers are certified and can go find an Elementary School job. We are going to end up with the bottom of the barrell teaching pre-K.

What's best for kids?

March 7th, 2011
11:38 am

Is the 20 day cut a mandate or is it simply a suggestion?

Maureen Downey

March 7th, 2011
11:45 am

@What’s best, The state is only going to fund 160 days so I would consider it a mandate, unless a local system planned to pay for the other 20 days.
Maureen

Dunwoody Mom

March 7th, 2011
11:46 am

@Interested Participant…it’s better than getting paid for teaching only 4 hours a day as was the original proposal. Did you really think these teachers would be paid a full-time salary for a part-time job?

Mid GA Retiree

March 7th, 2011
11:56 am

This seems like a fair compromise. The 10% reduction in salary comes from a reduced school year, so that is fair, also. I am torn about limiting pre-k to low income families. It’s another case of those that have footing the bill for those that don’t.

Dunwoody Mom

March 7th, 2011
12:04 pm

@Mid GA Retiree…Pre-K is funded by the lottery not tax dollars, so it’s not really correct to say that you are footing the bill unless you have spent millions upon millions playing the lottery.

If you want to look at this from what is best for society, then perhaps it should be geared toward those children will need a bigger head start than others.

Wearing Me Out

March 7th, 2011
12:06 pm

I know I’m wearing you out, Maureen. Final few thoughts:

This issue has done nothing but pit the parents with the very young against the parents of high school/college students. I think the latter probably form the larger constituency.

The students and their parents will likely face a $3,000 bill this upcoming school year 2011-12. How many people would have serious financial issues if their property taxes, federal taxes, state taxes, sales taxes, you name it increased by $3,000 overnight? Plus room and board.

If HOPE didn’t fund Pre-K, low income parents would still use Head Start and other parents would use for-profit or other institutions to fill their Pre-K needs. It’s the way it was handled before HOPE. It’s what I did for my kids.

If the Central Planning Committee was smart enough, they would be better off ticking off 4 year olds rather than high school seniors and college students. The latter are voters. Their parents are voters. Both in great numbers. They will vote in one of three ways for the damage caused: throw them out the next election, choose out-of-state schools, or if they stay in state, vote their displeasure by taking their skills out of state once they have graduated. Georgia will stay at the bottom of most of the important indicators of a state’s performance.

Too, for all the Chambers of Commerce and the Central Planning Committee efforts to sell companies on moving their operations to Georgia, I know HOPE was one of the larger points they sold to these companies. I believe the college aspect was of greater importance in their minds. Now companies will see the Central Planning Committee will not preserve HOPE as promised and legislated. If you can’t trust them now, how much can you trust them in the future with anything they say? Not all all, in my opinion.

I can’t wait until the door hits me in the butt on my way out of here. Good luck Bubbas and Bubbettes. You deserve the actions of those you have chosen to elect.

Neil Murray

March 7th, 2011
12:07 pm

The solution for both HOPE pre-k and college funding, I believe, is a sensible combination of achievement and need criteria. Both programs should target students who have ability but no realistic alternative to publicly subsidies. If it becomes necessary to trim costs, use a sliding scale, not a cutoff number. To argue that HOPE should be either entirely need-based or entirely merit-based is counterproductive.

Aquagirl

March 7th, 2011
12:13 pm

*Sigh* What’s so magical about the lottery? The money collected is taxes. You pay a percentage to the government for your purchase of a 52 ounce slurpee. Nobody calls that percentage anything but taxes. And last time I checked, slurpees were completely optional.

When people categorize lottery revenue as different, they get sloppy about expectations. When you get sloppy about expectations, you get the current mess called HOPE.

HS Public Teacher

March 7th, 2011
12:16 pm

School, even pre-K, should NOT consider the impact of time for working parents. The children are the responsibility of the parents – working or not. Just because parents work does NOT make it the Board of Educations responsibility to baby-sit their child while they are at work.

This should NEVER be a consideration. The important considerations should simply include what is in the best interst of the student and learning!

If it is found that it is best for students and learning to be released from school or pre-K at noon every day, then so be it. The parents will then need to find a way to PARENT THEIR CHILD at noon. Maybe this means getting a baby sitter, or sending them to a YMCA program, or whatever.

Shar

March 7th, 2011
12:17 pm

No, this is not fair. Lottery-funded Pre-K should be limited to those who need it on an income basis. HOPE college scholarship money should not be given to private colleges and should be changed to a reimbursement-only structure so we stop wasting huge amounts of money on students who are unprepared for college. Those who are currently in high school or college and who structured their high school and/or college curricula to meet the existing HOPE guidelines should be grandfathered in.

Dontget Mestarted

March 7th, 2011
12:23 pm

@Wearing Me Out

As the parent of a freshman at a USG school and the spouse of a PreK teacher, I assure you the better benefit is providing for the 4 year old. The only difference my college student faces is a 10% cut to the amount he recieves for HOPE. That is still 90% I, nor he, has to cover. If he loses HOPE, he is fully capable of finding a job to pay his way through just like I had to do. The 4 year old does not have that ability. Also, don’t you think the parents of 4 year olds vote.

Better I guess

March 7th, 2011
12:32 pm

This is much better than the 4 hour program; however, those 20 days, those kids still will need to be “enrolled” in something. I would imagine each center will have some sort of ” vacation week” where the center will turn into a daycare for those 20 days. Still not ideal for working families.
@ HS Public Teacher. I work in a high school too and the idea that we should not care what happens to the students once they leave is not smart on your part. As a high school teacher, you know what happens when kids are left alone without supervision when they are in high school. Of course each parent should be home when their parents get there but that has not been the recent reality of the situation. As an educator, you should know better.

Mike

March 7th, 2011
12:33 pm

The best thing Deal can do for education in this state and for himself when dealing with education is to stop listening to his neighbor Schofield. He probably wouldn’t be backing up again and would have had a better plan to begin with. This is where the no income cap comes from if you ask me. Pandering to the upper classes is not what is always best for kids! That is all we get I’m our Hall County schools now and I hate to see it spread statewide like this.

Angry in GA

March 7th, 2011
12:39 pm

What is seems like to me is that GA pre-k teachers just got kicked in the teeth… the first proposal was harsh I will give you that, but lets face it, from a teacher prospective atleast it was equal…. less pay for less work… the new proposal is even worse… it is hatred in disguise…. more work, more students, same hours, less time to accomplish the end goal in mind, and less pay…. Who in their right mind thinks this is fair? While I realize the first option did create a childcare issue for parents and raised lots of concern as to is 4 hours enough time to impart the knowledge needed, atleast it was apples to apples…. I dont know how to compare apples to chairs.

Wearing Me Out

March 7th, 2011
12:47 pm

@ Dontget Mestarted

Sorry, couldn’t help. When I see misinformation, I have to clear it up. No, this isn’t just a 10% differential.

10% of the current 2010-11 tuition level. That’s $707 additional.

The amount of tuition increase for 2011-12 has not been determined yet. The new law will not pick up any increase in tuition. You can probably expect at least $1,000 (as they did last year). If you count the institutional fee (aka tuition), it was $1,400 to $1,600 (depending upon whether you went summer semester).

No fees will be covered by HOPE any longer. HOPE picked up $435 per semester last term. So, depending upon whether you go summer semester, they is an additional $870 plus whatever was allowed for summer, so lets say $1,000.

Book allotment cut to $150 next term and zero thereafter.

So, the reasonable $707 you are expecting to pay will actually be more like the $3,000 I alluded to earlier. As far as getting a job to pay for college if you lose HOPE. Good luck with that. One year at a 4 year here is about $18,000 including room and board.

BehindEnemyLines

March 7th, 2011
12:49 pm

re: “whose parents had no other options” — Complete load of malarky. They had options — stop having children you’re unable to adequately provide for — unfortunately for us all they chose not to exercise those.

Gail

March 7th, 2011
12:53 pm

Yes. They should have focused on the intent of the Pre-K program. I think it was to ensure that all 4 year-olds whose parents wanted them to attend Pre-K could do that. What would be wrong with some families paying a small fee? If most college students are now going to have to pay 10%+ of their tuition, then why can’t parents of 4 year-olds who are able, pay 10% of the Pre-K cost? Would that create enough funds for all the at-risk children on the waiting lists?

Brian30101

March 7th, 2011
12:57 pm

Free Pre-K is not a right, Free college is not a right. Lottery money is not tax, it a voluntary fee paid by those of us who play. The lottery corp can allocate that money any way they see fit. Don’t like it, then don’t play the lottery and pay for your child’s education. But stop whining about whats fair.

Blue dog

March 7th, 2011
12:58 pm

This is absolutely the top priority for using the lottery funds. So much of the college funds go for unprepared students who will stay a year or two and flunk out.
Although I did not vote for Deal, I commend him on this decision.
Looks like his Democratic ‘roots’ are coming out…now that he has been elected.

Shar

March 7th, 2011
1:00 pm

Don’tgetmestarted, the parents of the four year old are legally responsible for that child. The parents of the eighteen year old are not. The cost of Pre-K is vastly less than that of college. The shifting of funds to cover Pre-K for those whose parents can afford to pay for it adds to the debt burden – over 4 years, not the 1 year of Pre-K – to eighteen year olds. This is a very bad idea.

Practical Person

March 7th, 2011
1:10 pm

In the ongoing debate realtive to what needs to be done to “save” the HOPE Scholarship and Pre K programs, the simple and reasonable solution that nobody is talking about is to abide by existing State law relative to how lottery revenues are used. The law that established HOPE (Georgia Lottery for Education Act 50-27-1) clearly states that, “as nearly as practical”, 45% of revenue generated from lottery sales shall be made available as prize money. Additionally, “as near as practical” at least 35% of revenue generated from lottery sales shall be net proceeds and transferred to the general fund of the state of Georgia to be used for scholarship and other educational activities. Finally, in years when revenue permits, up to 10% shall be used to fund the Scholarship Shortfall Reserve fund.

However, since its inception, the amount of funds used for prize money has exceeded the 45% benchmark (63.3% in 2009!) and the amount sent to the state for educationally related activities has continually dropped from a high of 35% in 1997 to 25.6% in 2009. The question that begs to be asked: Are the percentages of 63.3% in prize money and 25.6% in scholarship funds “practical”? It would seem to any reasonable person that an 18.3% excess in prize money and a 9.4% shortfall in funds sent to the state for education programs is not a “practical” thing to do given the fact that “education” is THE REASON THE LOTTERY EXISTS!!!

ABC

March 7th, 2011
1:14 pm

Nice to know how screwed those of us with children in the middle and high school years got. My kids did not make it in the “lottery” that makes pre-k and I footed the bill myself for both of them. Now it looks like I won’t be getting any HOPE either in a few years.

Good job.

Gail

March 7th, 2011
1:18 pm

Amen! to Shar @1:00pm

@ABC

March 7th, 2011
1:27 pm

ABC,
Your children would have received pre-k had they been in Georgia. Pre-k has been around as long as HOPE. Your children will also be receiving 90% tuition coverage if they have a B or greater. HOPEFULLY, the Hope will have died a painfull death by the time my kids come around so that we can look at real, fair market prices for university in Georgia, instead of inflated tuition and fees that we have now.l

anotheratlantamom

March 7th, 2011
1:27 pm

I don’t understand why people think that good teachers will flee the profession. There are plenty of educated mothers out there that would love to have a part time job that allows them to be on the same schedule as their children. I am one of them. I was a teacher before I had children and a half day teaching job sounds pretty darn appealing to me. The women that work at my son’s private pre-k are ridiculously overqualified. Most have masters degrees. They do what they do because they love it and the schedule suits them. I still think Deal should have stayed with the half day plan. Every private pre-k I know of is half day.

Another view

March 7th, 2011
1:30 pm

the Pre-K change is not a compromise at all – it’s simply an 11.1% cut instead of a 38.5% cut. Certainly less of a hit than the first proposal. If that’s an 11.1% cut in pay as opposed to a 38.5% cut in pay for Pre-K teachers, fewer of them will leave, although those in public schools will likely take a K-5 job if they can to avoid a pay cut. Almost all Pre-K teachers in public schools are certfied teachers; they are almost never so in the privates. It may be that the publics will seek the high school and 2-year grads who staff the privates? ALWAYS true: the best leave first — because they can.

Arleen

March 7th, 2011
1:35 pm

If the families of college students will have to pay an additional percentage then so should the families of the pre-k students. NONE of it should be completely free. Parents must to have a financial investment in the education of their child during the entirety of that journey to ensure the best outcome.

Not So

March 7th, 2011
1:41 pm

ALL Georgia Pre-K lead teachers (except for the few who are grandfathered in with a 2 year degree) must have 4 year degree or better to teach in the program this year. I think the last stats I saw was that close to 2/3 of Pre-K teachers were PSC certified. Of the 2400 teachers in Georgia Pre-K that are located in private child care centers, almost 1400 are certified.

What's Best for Kids?

March 7th, 2011
1:41 pm

Maureen, is the title really supposed to be “Emotions sore over redistricting” on the front page, or is it soar? Just checking, as I don’t think that emotions can get sore.

2 cents

March 7th, 2011
1:49 pm

so at least we know the plan going into next year; the school year will be like 160 days; so teachers make sure you are ready to get reduced pay. unless Deal keeps his promise of no furlough days

Wayner83

March 7th, 2011
1:51 pm

I think this was a great decision. My fiance is a Private Pre-K teacher that in danger of losing her job. When they announced that it would be going to half day school years, the owners of her school informed them that they would try and get two classes a day 4 hour class in the morning and 4 hour class in the afternoon. However, if that was not approved than, due to a pay decrease, she would be looking at having to find another job. She absolutely loves her job and does it for the satisfaction and not the money. However, their is a certain amount a person has to make to live on. This doesnt even mention the fact that it didnt allow any time for the teachers planning time. All students benefit from Pre-K, however, only a small portion of students fully benefit from HOPE.

As a product of the Hope scholarship, I think the idea of beinga reimbursement system would definitely be the smartest option and would save all of the money they need. I know of only about 10-20% of Hope recipients that kept the schalarship after the first year, and they generally dropped out afterwards. So that money was completely wasted on them. However, some got a second chance, raised their GPA, and lost it again. This is an issue. If we had of stopped the board of regents form banking off of Hope for so long this wouldnt be an issue. They have raised tuition insanely over the last 10-20 years because they knew that all of the hope students would pay it with no problem, and in the process have all but bankrupted the system.

Lynn

March 7th, 2011
1:52 pm

@Shar…You are misinformed on the cost of GA Pre-K versus College. Having both a Pre-K and College student, I can tell you that the costs are very similar.

Tuition and Fees for 2 Semesters at Ga State University is $8,273.

The tuition for a good (not extravagant) Pre-K program for 42 weeks is $8,400.

So while College students will have to add the cost of books, the cost is not too different.

Curtis

March 7th, 2011
2:00 pm

I find it insulting and frustrating that parents of pre-k students are not asked to pay a share of the pre-k tuition for their children as we with college students are. The changes will impact our finances for four years as opposed to the one year to pre-k students’ families. (Paying for lunch for your preschooler doesn’t count.)

A Conservative Voice

March 7th, 2011
2:01 pm

WOW, what a “Deal” (pun intended)……..free babysitting, brought to you by…….US, as in “we the people”.

Maureen Downey

March 7th, 2011
2:08 pm

@What’s best. The writer meant “sore” as in painful, but I shared your comment and he did change the headline to make it less confusing. I agree that it is natural to read that headline as “emotions soar.”
Maureen

Wayner83

March 7th, 2011
2:14 pm

@A Conservative Voice, please leave your misinformation out of the boards. Anyone that has ever had a child in a qualified GA Pre-K will know it is FAR from a daycare. And if you dont want to pay for it, then dont play the lottery. Its not a state funded program paid for by local or state income tax. So I am not quite sure where your comment fit into this board.

Mish3131

March 7th, 2011
2:17 pm

Regardless if they shorten the day or remove 20 days from the schedule I will still have to pay more money in daycare. Instead of stretching it out over the entire year, now I will get hit with 4 full time weeks of daycare. Which for me would be an additional $700. Either way parent have to pay more out of pocket.

Gena

March 7th, 2011
2:22 pm

This is sad, pre-K establishes the foundation of education for these children. Education is the key to reducing poverty. The kids that need pre-K the most are going to be the ones affect. What since does this make, unfair to the teachers involved. Is this apart of the furlow days in Georgia?

Rochelle

March 7th, 2011
2:23 pm

All of my children (5) have attended the GA pre-K program and I have felt it was a great program for children to introduce them to school. I am glad that they have decided to keep it a full-day program as it is a benefit to those families who would not qualify for Headstart, but whose children need the benefit of a more structured academic program prior to Kindergarten. If there had not been Pre-K we would have kept them in the half day church pre-school.
HOPE for college has allowed many to have the mindset that a close to free college education is a right, its not. Many of the college bound students or current students and their parents need a reality check regarding college savings; the ability of students to work during the summer and pay toward their in-state tuition and the ability to use student loans to pay for college. All of these are things many of us had to do to get through college and it did not kill us. Stop the whining and crying about having to pay $9-10K for a college education….

Mid Ga Retiree

March 7th, 2011
2:24 pm

Dunwoody Mom, you were right about the lottery funding the pre-K. I had a momentary lapse of memory….they are becoming more frequent. However, I still have a problem with other government programs that ARE TAXPAYER FUNDED that take from those who have and give to those who don’t. For those that try, I am all for helping. For those that sit back waiting for the handout that they think they deserve, or the entitlement that they want someone else to pay for, let them work like I did or do without!

Bottom line

March 7th, 2011
2:26 pm

I think people are focusing on the wrong thing here….the bottom line is that the standards expected out of children heading into Kindergarten are getting more and more extreme. Cut Pre-K and children are not going to be ready to live up to the expectations. There had been no talk with the proposed hour cut that the Kindergarten curriculum would need to be reassessed to account for what couldn’t be taught due to the hour reduction. This is still an issue with the new proposal. Less hours to teach our children what they need to know to move on to Kindergarten successfully. So much for the “No Child Left Behind” idea. This whole proposal, half day or 20 days less, is simply hurting those children that would have already been struggling.
And as for those who are lumping all Pre-K parents into the recipients of free babysitting….don’t stereotype all people into one basket. My daughter will attend Pre-K next year, and I just want her to learn and start her schooling life. I don’t care about babysitting. Don’t speak and make comments for everyone. I work full time and pay taxes!

Dr NO

March 7th, 2011
2:31 pm

AAAA-HEM!! If ya dont like it then find a Pre-K and pay fair price.

Dr NO

March 7th, 2011
2:32 pm

My God you people have become so reliant on big brother. Im surprised you all know when to take a toilet break without being told. Next thing you all will want the govt to supply depends undergarments…

Shar

March 7th, 2011
2:49 pm

@Lynn – I just looked up the current tuition at the Pre-K I used for my youngest child. It is $415 per month, so depending on whether you calculate a 9-month or a 10-month school year it will cost $3,735 or $4,150 per year. This is NOT daycare – it is a very good neighborhood preschool that used Montessori techniques for kindergarten readiness. I don’t know why you would pay twice as much unless you are in fact using daycare.

Pre-K encompasses one year. College requires four. College, for most students, also necessitates being away from home, so the room and board costs double the required charges. Books and fees add another $1,000 or so per semester.

Most crucially, Pre-K students are legally their parents’ financial responsibility. College students are not. Therefore, paying for Pre-K students whose parents can afford to underwrite the costs shifts the burden to students who must assume incremental debt to that already forced by the additional college costs. This is bad policy.

momo2gurlz

March 7th, 2011
3:01 pm

I am the mother of 2 young girls: one of which has already benefitted from Pre-K; the other will be in Pre-K within the next few years. I didn’t have the benefit of the Hope scholarship; I went to school the old – fashioned way: I got a job and put myself through college with the benefit of a little bit of financial aid (which I had to pay back).
I believe the governor made a very well thought-out compromise. There are other options for college students that the youngest among us don’t have.
I also don’t believe GA Pre-K should be based upon “need”. All children “need” school. If you want your child to go to college, train them to study and work for what they want – that’s what I and most of my friends did!
With my older daughter, we still had to pay several hundred dollars per month for the “free” GA Pre-K, so to say it’s free is a misnomer.

the prof

March 7th, 2011
3:05 pm

Shar, I presume you have or do receive government handouts or have no clue what is being admitted into Georgia colleges or Universities….

ABC

March 7th, 2011
3:08 pm

Rochelle: why don’t YOU stop whining about paying for your FIVE brats to go to daycare on other people’s dime???

I will stop whining about having to foot the bill for my (only) two sons to go to college when you put up and support your five. How’s that.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

March 7th, 2011
3:09 pm

Has a competent, disinterested, out-of-state agency conducted a comprehensive, long-term performance audit of the GA Pre-K program? of each of the entities providing pre-K services? Could we have some systematic evidence about how our kids benefit from this program as an entity? Could we also have systematic evidence about how kids enrolled in each participating pre-K perform in later public schoolng?

Dr NO

March 7th, 2011
3:12 pm

If ya dont like it then get a job and pay your kids way. Im tired of my tax money being wasted on your loser kid.