St. Charles District 303 considering sliding-scale fee for all-day kindergarten
St. Charles District 303 board members are studying whether to offer all-day kindergarten on a sliding scale to help ensure that all families that want to can participate in the program.
All-day kindergarten currently has a program fee of $2,025 to offset the cost for the additional half-day of instruction, including personnel costs. The fee is reduced to $90 for families that qualify for a fee waiver.
School board members will discuss the sliding scale proposal at their Business Services Committee meeting on Monday. As proposed, household incomes that are more than 300% of federal poverty guidelines would pay an $1,800 annual fee for all-day kindergarten.
Household incomes between 251% and 300% of federal poverty guidelines would pay an annual fee of $1,350 and household incomes between 186% to 250% of federal poverty guidelines would pay a $675 annual fee. Household incomes from 0% to 185% of federal poverty guidelines would not pay a fee.
The benefits of eliminating the fee would be that it would ensure all students have equitable access to all-day kindergarten and has the potential of accelerating academic and social-emotional learning for all students, officials said.
School board members had discussed different options during a Learning and Teaching Committee meeting on Monday. Eliminating the fee for all-day kindergarten would cost the district $1.2 million a year, officials said.
"From what programs would we take that budget?" school board member Joseph Lackner asked. "What I'm really trying to understand is what's the outcome impact of taking that $6 million over many years out of other programs in order to fund this and how should we think about that tradeoff in potential outcomes?"
In response, Superintendent Jason Pearson said the district would first look at perhaps putting off purchasing new buses or delay a facility improvement project.
"It would just depend where we could find those savings," Pearson said. "I would say we wouldn't necessarily be taking away another instructional program so that we could provide all-day kindergarten. We would first be looking to other places to try to balance the budget and save that money."
Board member Becky McCabe said she was in favor of reducing the kindergarten fee.
"I do believe there are probably more families who can't afford the top number," she said. "I would like to see us do something as a show of good faith to our families who don't have that extra money but really do believe in our school system and our schools."