This fall, my daughter will board the big yellow school bus for the first time, which will whisk her away for her first day of kindergarten. It’s a milestone we’ve been looking forward to – and preparing for – since the day she was born. In fact her entrance into kindergarten is a key reason why we’ve decided to move back to my hometown; if we stayed where we live currently, she’d miss the district’s cut off date and would have to go to preschool for another year.
But her new school district comes with a catch. Although she’ll be attending public school, the district only provides half-day kindergarten; full-day kindergarten is available, but only if you pay tuition.
It sounds uncanny – paying tuition for public school? While we expect to pay school tuition for preschool, before- and after-school programs, and private school, no one in their right mind expects to shell out extra cash for their child to attend public school, specifically when the public school is their home district. (There are some school district’s with open enrollment policies, which will accept students from neighboring districts, provided they pay tuition.)
The Nuts & Bolts
Half-day kindergarten comes at no extra cost, but full-day kindergarten would cost me an additional $3,500 a year. Over the 180 days on the school calendar, that’s like paying $19.44 a day for the full-day program. The half-day program would send my daughter to school either for three hours each morning or three hours each afternoon; the full-day kindergarten class is in session for 6.5 hours a day, and is separate from the half-day – my daughter would only be in class with other full-day students, they would have their own teacher, and it wouldn’t be just a repetition of the morning program in the afternoon. Since the full-day kindergarten would really only give my daughter 3.5 additional hours of schooling a day, it would be like paying $5.55/hour extra – that’s substantially less than minimum wage.
What’s Best for My Daughter
For the past two years, my daughter’s attended a really top-notch preschool program. Last year, she attended class three mornings a week for three hours at a time, for a total of nine weekly hours in the classroom; this year, she’s going to pre-K five days a week for four hours a day, for a total of 20 hours a week. Thanks in no small part to this extended time in the classroom, she’s already reading at just four-and-a-half years old.
Enrolling her in the district’s basic half-day program, I feel, would be a step back for her. She’s already adjusted to a school setting ages ago, and she already knows many of the skills that wouldn’t be taught until the second semester of kindergarten if not first grade.
What’s Best for Mommy
In the next few weeks, I’ll be transitioning back to a full-time working schedule. Although I’ll still be working from home – I’ll be telecommuting indefinitely – I’ll be required to put in more hours than I was when I was only freelancing and able to determine my own routine.
With this in mind, I feel the extra cost of full-day kindergarten is well worth it. I don’t think I could find a part-time childcare arrangement that would cost me less than the $3,500 I’ll pay in school tuition; nor would whatever program I’d find be such a good use of my daughter’s time.
Have you ever had to pay for public school? Do you think it’s a ridiculous prospect, or totally justifiable given school districts’ financial hardships over the past few years?