Kindergarten policy discriminates against those who can’t pay

Suppose a school district board of directors considered a new policy that would discriminate against children residing in the district whose families do not pay tuition fees to obtain a better educational opportunity for their children.

Who among the people who pay any attention at all to our public schools would object?

Not those who ask when a school levy proposition is on the ballot why they, rather than the parents, should have to pay more to supplement state and federal funding.

Their opposites who consider themselves to be dyed-in-the-wool school supporters might consider speaking up, but they would risk being mistaken for people with ulterior motives who really don’t want better public schools.

For whatever reason, a policy being considered by the South Kitsap School District directors is one that many school districts have adopted with little if any sign of opposition.

It would discriminate based on the payment or nonpayment of a tuition fee for admission to an educational opportunity offered during the normal school day and normal school year.

We generally accept the fact that our public schools spend more time (and therefore more public funds) providing extra help to children who need it.

This policy would provide extra help to children whose families pay extra, so it isn’t the same thing.

The policy would establish an all-day kindergarten program for the children of families that pay the tuition fee, and leave those who don’t pay in the customary half-day kindergarten program.

Professional educators believe an all-day kindergarten is better, because there is more time for the teachers to help each child in the class learn the things in the curriculum.

It probably is a better educational opportunity, but should our public schools offer better opportunities upon payment of a tuition fee and deny the same opportunities to those who don’t pay?

Sometimes, our schools do offer more conditioned upon payment of a tuition fee. Summer school is an example.

But is paying for the extra time and attention provided in summer school the same thing as paying for a longer kindergarten class during the normal school year?

Students attending summer school already received their educational opportunity at public expense during the normal school year alongside their fellow students, so it surely is not the same.

For more than a century after statehood, Washington’s public schools operated on the understanding that they are “maintained at public expense,” as stated in the law.

It’s a common understanding that public schools offer at public expense an educational opportunity that isn’t based on the willingness or ability of parents to pay tuition fees.

But among many professional educators and bureaucrats, this longstanding rule is thought to be outdated.

They want the extra revenue so badly they have persuaded themselves that part of an Attorney General Opinion that explicitly deals only with fundraising by selling goods or services to the general public gives them a rationale for charging tuition fees for all-day kindergarten.

So don’t expect the bureaucrats to step in and prevent adoption of a policy that changes the nature of public school funding.

State law gives school district directors “broad discretionary power” to adopt written policies that are “not in conflict with other law,” and the bureaucrats claim this all-day kindergarten tuition fee can be imposed using that power.

There is an “other law” which explicitly states that districts must admit children residing in the district on a “tuition free basis,” but those who hunger for more revenue have convinced themselves that a policy requiring payment of a tuition fee is not in conflict with it.

Apparently, they are willing to believe that the obligation to “admit” on a “tuition free basis” only lets the children in the front door — and then the tuition fees can be imposed.

Those whose families pay go into one classroom and the rest go elsewhere. They all got in the front door, so everything’s legal and appropriate.

It’s a sad state of affairs.

Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.