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Muskego School Board sees value in offering K4

Class added nearly $500,000 to coffers

Dec. 21, 2012

Muskego - Partly because the kindergarten for 4-year-olds is finally self-sustaining, the Muskego-Norway School Board has given the go-ahead for the 2013-14 school year.

But the board will evaluate it again next December to make sure the financial numbers line up well enough to approve another year.

The program brought an additional $1.2 million in state aid this year because the total district enrollment increased because of the kindergartners. Enrollment is a major factor affecting state aid. The program itself costs just over $700,000 this year, so it's more than paying for itself by bringing in additional state aid.

"The numbers show the tax levy would be higher without it," School Board President Jim Schaefer said of the K4 kindergarten.

School Board member Dean Strom agreed, "It has panned out from a financial standpoint. It's self-sufficient and saves taxpayers money."

School officials had expected the K4 program to have broken even last year. But due to the unprecedented state financial crisis and resulting budget slashes, school aid was cut and self-sufficiency had to wait.

Indeed, the unpredictability of state aid played a role in the only vote being cast against extending K4 for 2013-14. Board member Michael Serdynski voted against extending it next year as he voted against holding it this year. The reason, he said, was that no one knows what will happen to those state dollars. They could go away again, he said. Then the schools will either have to drop the program that parents have come to like or pay for it themselves.

Schaefer didn't support K4 when the board approved a pilot program on a split vote in 2010. But he supports it now.

"It's clear the program is liked by parents," he said. But more important in his view, he said, is that 88 percent of school districts in Wisconsin in 2011-12 school year offered K4.

The district's goal is to be the district of choice in southeastern Wisconsin, he said, "I'm not sure we can be the district of choice without offering K4."

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