Concerns Over Cutting All-Day Kindergarten

<p>Kindergarten class at Garfield Elementary in Yakima</p>

Kindergarten class at Garfield Elementary in Yakima

Teachers and parents are concerned that all-day kindergarten, a program they feel better prepares students for the future, may fall victim to state budget cuts. Now, why they feel all-day kindergarten is the only way to teach children.

A sign in teacher Lorita Stohr's classroom at Garfield Elementary school in Yakima may say "welcome to kindergarten," but her students are learning how to read, a skill Stohr says is normally taught in the first grade.

"Since we went to all-day kindergarten, it's academics, the expectations are higher," says Stohr.

When she used to teach half-day kindergarten, the emphasis was on letters, not words. Now, a full day of instruction also includes more time spent teaching numbers and mathematics.

"The majority of them, by the time when they leave kinder, they can recognize up to 100," says Stohr.

And parents who've had children in both half-day and full-day kindergarten say they can see the difference.

"My younger one is way more advanced in reading than her older brother was," says Rita Mendoza.

"She's doing really well, in the reading and everything, I think it's crucial they have all day," says Diana Alexander.

But now, to make up for budget woes, during this legislative session, state lawmakers are threatening to cut $57 million that school districts use to pay for all-day kindergarten. School leaders say they will fight to keep funding all-day kindergarten, but can't make any promises.

"We would do everything, but at this point and time, it still depends, there's no decisions," says director of elementary education Kris Seibel.

Supporters of all-day kindergarten feel the extra lessons learned at an earlier age may help students do better when they reach high school. Teachers say students doing better in high school are less likely to drop out. And the possibility of going back to half-day kindergarten has parents worried about how that will impact their children's education, and future.

"Kindergarten is the backbone of the education, once you cut taht, then it's gonna be harder for the first grade, the second grade, and so on," says Alexander.

The Yakima School District says it will wait until the current legislative session is over before it makes a decision on how to possibly keep paying for all-day kindergarten.