Thursday, February 4, 2010

In Print: Tough, but Right, Decision

New Jersey's paper-of-record weighs in on Garwood's Pre-K pay plan. The plan is reasonable, says the Ledger's editorial board.

Garwood Pre-K holding on
By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

Students will be returning to pre-K in Garwood, at a price.

The Garwood school board made a tough decision by announcing it would charge parents for pre-kindergarten beginning in the 2010-2011 school year. Tough, but necessary.

Superintendent Teresa Quigley said the district had relied on state aid for eight percent of its $8 million budget — about $600,000. That is not likely to be sustained in the current economy, especially with a new governor talking tough about spending. So the decision was made to charge Garwood parents $5,000 for the full-time pre-K session and $2,500 for part-time, beginning in the fall. Children who receive free or reduced lunch would still attend for free. Quigley said the only other choice would have been to end pre-K. About 32 children now attend in two classes.

Canceling it altogether would have been a mistake, given the undisputed benefits of pre-K for all children. The state funds pre-K programs in the former Abbott districts, but not Garwood and other non-Abbotts.

Cecelia Zalkind, executive director of the Association for Children of New Jersey, said charging tuition to parents who can afford it seems "reasonable," as long as allowances are made for the poorest families. Quigley says she’ll see how parents respond when they sign up this week. But the bottom line is Garwood made the best choice it could.

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