Stuart D. Berger said he was stunned that one of the first major initiatives he announced as new superintendent for Baltimore County -- full-day kindergarten in 32 county schools -- received criticism. It was the kind of program that sailed through unscathed in Dr. Berger's previous school district, in Wichita, Kans.
Actually, criticism of the plan, which will affect 2,000 of the county's 7,000 kindergartners, hasn't been widespread. At a recent school board meeting, one parent complained that her child's kindergarten wasn't being expanded to a full school day. No children should receive the benefit if all children don't, she contended. Conversely, another parent believed the program shouldn't be offered at all because overcrowding and resource shortages persist at various county schools.
Besides reflecting self-interest, those arguments are not likely to carry the day during Stuart Berger's tenure as school chief. For one, the new superintendent has made it clear that he feels different schools have different needs and he doesn't plan to treat the system with one broad brush stroke. In fact, all-day kindergarten in Baltimore County is only plausible because its focus is youngsters in largely disadvantaged communities. In less needy areas, all-day kindergarten would constitute taxpayer-financed day care for upper-income families. It would be far less palatable to taxpayers.