On a 4-to-2 split vote, the Brainerd School District narrowly approved the kindergarten through fourth-grade budget reductions for next fall.
Board members Ruth Nelson and Bob Nystrom voted against the budget recommendations while board members Reed Campbell, Kent Montgomery, Ruth Gmeinder and Lew Hudson voted in favor of the measure.
Both Nelson and Nystrom said they couldn't support the approximately $1.1 million in K-4 reductions because of the proposal to fund all-day, everyday kindergarten at four of the six elementary schools. They said they would rather see smaller class sizes in all grades by offering a part-time kindergarten program at all elementary schools, except Harrison, which qualifies for federal funding for a full-time kindergarten program.
"I'd rather put money for prevention than remediation."
School board member
Nelson said the district needs to work with the state Legislature to fully fund all-day, everyday kindergarten.
"I agree with Mrs. Nelson on the subject," said Nystrom. "Unless the money is there and it's fair across the board, I cannot support this and will be voting no."
"I'd rather put money for prevention than remediation," said board member Ruth Gmeinder, which is why she supported all-day, everyday kindergarten at four of the six schools.
The other two schools, Baxter and Nisswa, would be offered a fee-based KinderClub program offered through Brainerd Community Education on the days kindergartners weren't in class.
After the board adopted the resolution for the K-4 reductions for next fall, Nelson asked that the board look at some choice for kindergarten parents. She said part-time kindergarten teachers will have a total of about 60 students each week, 30 per part-time class. She asked that parents be given a choice on whether to send their children to a part-time or full-time kindergarten program if space allowed.
The K-4 program budget cuts for the 2008-09 school year include a reduction of 22 full-time-equivalent certified teachers, 12 FTE educational assistants and reducing grade levels to three sections per grade level and increasing class sizes.
In other board action, the board approve the closure of Whittier Elementary School at the end of the school year.
The board passed a resolution for the sale of general obligation aid anticipation certificates for $5 million at the Feb. 11 board meeting. The board previously approved the sale of aid anticipation certificates last June but the market is now better to recall the sale, said Steve Dickinson, director of business services. Dickinson said the funds are used for cash flow purposes and will be a six-month loan. This is the third fiscal year the board has been involved in cash flow borrowing because the district's unreserved fund balance is low.
The school board legislative committee will meet at 3 p.m. Jan. 31 at Washington Educational Services Building with several area legislators in attendance.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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