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Sparta Board of Education to Discuss Full-Day Kindergarten

Jennifer Dericks

Sunday, December 15, 2013 • 10:22pm

SPARTA, NJ - The Sparta Board of Education will begin public discussion about whether or not to implement Full-Day Kindergarten on Monday. The current boad began exploring the issues surrounding a full-day program more than a year ago, though the review actually began in 2011.

With more than 80 percent of all school districts in New Jersey currently offering a full day program, Sparta is part of a very small minority in which the kindergarteners are only in school for approximately two-and-a-half hours.  

The primary issue is budgetary, with estimates having been discussed to be in a range of $700,000 up to $1.5 million. Last year during public budget discussions, the board was informed of the availbility of $1.2 million in "banked cap."  This is funding available to school districts and municipalities resulting from not having raised the tax levy to the full two percent mandated limit.  The difference between a full 2 percent levy increase and the actual levy increase becomes "banked cap" or money available to exceed the cap in a subsequent budget.  

The banked cap must be used within three years or the funding goes away.  This is the third year; the board must add it to the 2014-2015 budget or it will no longer avaliable.  If the banked cap is used, it becomes part of the base budget upon which the levy increase is calculated every year or permanent funding.

WIthout using banked cap, the only way for a large iniativesuch as this to be included in the budget would be to make comensurate cuts to current expenditures.  

Last month when announcing that the board would begin public discussion in Dec, the board president  indicated that the board wants to be sure the taxpayers get enough  "bang for their buck."  

Opposition to full day program usually relies on data from 1990's and early 2000's that  says any advantage to early extended day becomes negligible by third grade.  There have not been any studies done, however, to replicate those comparisons since the new Common Core Standards have been adopted by New Jersey and forty five other states in the past few years.  The new standards require more rigor  at an earlier age. The students are expected to master skills up to a year sooner than with the previous standards.   

As with all board of education meetings, Monday's meeting is open to the public with two opportunities for the public to address the board.


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