Recently I received a widely circulated email from my councilperson articulating his opposition to FDK. His missive was based on being a “numbers guy.” The problem is that numbers can be highly interpretive, and as we all know they can be further manipulated when accompanied by potentially misleading words.
Let’s quickly review each of the “established facts,” and how they were presented.
- “Cost.” While some might look at this increased BOE budget as a cost, it is really a long term investment - benefitting the community at large. We must continue to make investments in our educational system or it will no longer be one of the main reasons for families to move here. It should be, at the least, available to all at no cost, but not universally prescribed for all.
- “Educational Impact.” Select FDK studies are discussed - not cited. The vast majority of well known and academically accepted longitudinal research studies prove that the benefits of FDK can last a lifetime, and, in fact, ultimately contribute to the GDP of a community.* It’s pretty hard to find those select anti-FDK studies, but we can also dig around and find “proof” that the earth is flat.
- “Emotional and Social Impact of FDK.” See #2.
- “FDK Adoption by Others.” Yes, 90% of NJ school districts offer FDK. When the comparison is made that other towns are without FDK - e.g., Chatham, Westfield, New Providence, Berkeley Heights, etc., there is no mention of the demographic make up of these towns. Reminder: Summit is a much more diverse community - by far. In fact, the ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained & Employed) population in Summit is about twice that of Millburn, which was described as a “similar” town with an FDK program.
- “Current FDK Options in Summit.” Yes, we have private options. Parents can choose them if they wish. Still, the idea of not having a continuous and academically consistent FDK in one location, and carting kids around Summit to another location to continue their paid 1/2 day FDK program is totally counterproductive, and in fact ludicrous. Finally, what exactly are the various degrees of tuition reimbursement? And who determines if that is affordable? Paying full freight for two or three children with our current lottery system, on a $75,000 salary (or $90,000) is difficult.
- “Definition of a Tax.” Thank you, we don’t need that to be defined. The fact is most of our middle class - (in North Jersey, the range for the middle class is $64,000 all the way up to $191,000) - believes living in Summit and paying FDK tuition is a financial burden, and feel unjustly targeted. It’s that simple.
- “The 2% Tax Cap.” There is no better use of our bank cap than the BOE’s FDK program. “Emergencies and unforeseen events” should not be the only reason to use it. That would be (at best) financial mismanagement. I applaud the BOE’s 6-1 vote.
- “Property Values and FDK.” Another opinion? Just talk to any real estate agent and s/he will tell you that young families overwhelmingly want a city with FDK. My belief is that as soon as FDK, as part of the BOE budget, is passed by our BOSE, we will see increased interest in Summit housing. Call it an insurance policy on our home values.
We as a community must continue to invest in our children - they are not a cost. As a community, it is our moral responsibility and obligation to get every child as close to the same starting line as possible.
*FDK benefits children both academically and socially. FDK is especially beneficial for children of low socioeconomic status (SES) or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds (Bingham & Hall-Kenton, 2012; Chang, 2012; Chang & Singh, 2008; Preston et al., 2012; Puleo, 1988; Schroeder, 2007). Studies have reported that FDK increases literacy skills compared to half-day kindergarten (HDK) (Elicker & Mathur, 1997; Walston & West, 2004).