Va. Beach School Board approves resolution for all-day kindergarten program

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Beach School Board on Tuesday approved a $748.1 million budget for the 2017-2018 school year.

Among the initiatives included in the plan are a two percent raise for all staff, flat healthcare costs for employees and the allocation of 40 positions to help reduce class sizes at the secondary level.

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The board also passed a resolution to ask city council for an additional $14 million to implement a full-day kindergarten program beginning next school year.

The district said the change is essential to build a strong foundation. Critics disagree and say the program is a cost to taxpayers without evidence.

“We presented the board with a five-year proposal,” Virginia Beach School Chief Academic Officer Dr. Amy Cashwell said.

With that proposal, each year they would phase in a number of schools. Dr. Cashwell said it’s essential for later success.

“Students benefit from full-day programs, particularly when they are coupled with other early learning experiences, like pre-kindergarten, do better,” Dr. Cashwell said.

A portion of the funds would also be used for the required local match to expand pre-kindergarten programs under the Virginia Pre-School Initiative. Unspent money from this request could be used to support the division’s Capital Improvement Plan or fund unmet needs, such as bus and technology replacements.

“As educators we know the value of increased learning time for both the social-emotional development of our young students and their academic growth, particularly in reading and math,” Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence said in a statement Tuesday. “Our community and city leaders clearly understand those benefits as well. In fact, a robust early education program is identified as a priority in the city’s strategic plan.”

Not all agree. 10 On Your Side talked with two school board members, Carolyn Weems and Victoria Manning, who both said they would vote against the proposal.

Each said they found no evidence that all day kindergarten has long term benefits. They added the wording of the proposal could allow the tax increase to be used for more than the kindergarten program.

Council will consider the school board’s budget plan, as well as the additional funding request, as it develops a city budget. By state law, city council must pass its budget by mid-May.