School board to discuss kindergarten options

March 24, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

With a House committee killing three bills that would have eliminated or delayed the state deadline for enrolling all kindergartners in full-day programs, Carroll County school board members are expected to discuss today their increasingly limited options in fighting the state program that they argue is too expensive and unnecessary.

The House Ways and Means Committee gave the three legislative proposals "unfavorable reports" Thursday, which means the bills will not be forwarded to the full House of Delegates for consideration.

Most disappointing to Carroll school officials was the killing of a bill that would have rolled back state-mandated, full-day kindergarten and given all school systems the option of trying for three years their own method of evaluating which children need the extra instruction.

Counties that chose to participate in the pilot program would have then submitted to the State Department of Education test results for all kindergartners, assessing whether children in half-day programs were as prepared for first grade as those enrolled in all-day programs.

A Senate committee is considering a similar proposal, but given the House panel's unfavorable report, it is unlikely the Senate bill will make it out of committee.

Carroll school officials have been fighting the state mandate - part of the $1.3 billion Thornton Commission education reforms - for nearly two years, arguing that the county's limited education budget would be better spent on more pressing concerns than enrolling all children in all-day kindergarten.

Three of Carroll County's 21 elementary schools offer full-day programs to their most disadvantaged and neediest kindergartners.

Carroll administrators proposed broadening that initiative and offering full-day kindergarten to children whose test scores indicate they struggle with basic skills that are the foundation for kindergarten instruction. Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick rejected that plan and testified in Annapolis this month against the bills that would have modified the kindergarten initiative.

The school board meets at 1 p.m. today at the district's administrative offices on North Court Street in Westminster.

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