Letter to the Editor

Vote 'No' on 5

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dear Editor,

Amendment 5 on the November ballot will ask Nebraskans to vastly expand the role of our public schools in our children's lives. Nebraska's constitution now guarantees a free education to students from kindergarten through high School. Amendment 5 would be the first step in adding that guarantee to children from "birth to kindergarten."

The Nebraska Department of Education defines an "early childhood education program" as "any prekindergarten part-day or full-day program with a stated purpose of promoting social, emotional, intellectual, language, physical … learning for children from birth to kindergarten entrance age and family development and support" which are delivered in the home.

Amendment 5 will fund the public school birth to kindergarten programs with an endowment fund started with $40 million taken from the school lands fund and $20 million in private donations.

The Warren Buffet family has been mentioned as a primary private donor to this fund.

The Legislature's Biennial Budget document states if Amendment 5 passes, it will "decrease the amount of state apportionment distributed to school districts" by an estimated $1.8 million per year. 

This reduction "decreases local school district resources" creating a need to increase state aid.

Translation: Taxpayers will be required to dig deeper and tax levy will need to increase.

Any school or ESU operating an Early Childhood Education program is required to comply with Rule 11 (NDE). Rule 11 mandates include: 

 nComprehensive services which include "involvement and support and access to … medical, dental, social, and mental health services."

* Teacher's with valid teacher's certificate

* Home visitor with at least a bachelor's level degree who delivers home-based services in the home

* Staff that speak the language(s) of the students in the group

* Staff to child ratios of 1:4 for ages birth to 18 months; 1:6 for ages 18 months-3 years; 1:10 for ages 3 years-kindergarten age

* Activities respecting diversity of races, national origin, gender and emphasis on culture and ethnicity

In addition to these facts, much research reveals intellectual gains from pre-kindergarten education disappear around the second and third grade levels.

Other research has found children in such settings are more likely to exhibit behavior problems in primary school.

It is important that Nebraska provide a free instruction for all children from ages 5 to 21 as currently required in our State Constitution. Amendment 5 expands the use of taxpayer dollars to "educate" all children, birth to kindergarten age.

Given the fact that passage of Amendment 5 would reduce funds for K-12 education, it certainly appears it would be in the public's best interest if Constitutional Amendment 5 fails to pass.

Source documents:


http://www.unicam.state.ne.us/reports/fiscal/budget/2006budget_0506.pdf        h...

Kathy Wilmot

Beaver City

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