A member of the Newtown Board of Education said the decision Wednesday to cancel plans to start all-day kindergarten in the local schools was forced by unexpected special education costs.
School board member Cody McCubbin said the board was facing a shortfall of about $200,000 from what it needed to start all-day kindergarten. Keeping the program for the 2012-13 school year would have required cutting other existing programs from the budget.
The board recently learned that new special needs students would increase the school district’s special education expenses by about $100,000, and School Supt. Janet Robinson told them that school officials would hold educational evaluation meetings for other new special needs students this summer, possibly raising those costs even more.
Although some of those costs would be reimbursed by the state, McCubbin said the extra expense convinced the board to cancel plans for all-day kindergarten this year.
“They thought they could do it with a lean budget, but it turned out they couldn’t,” he said.
The Board of Education budget was cut by $1 million during the wrenching budget process this year, which required five referendums before town voters approved a town budget.
McCubbin said some parents who attended the Board of Education meeting Wednesday were disappointed by the decision.
He said he understood the two groups that were at odds during the five budget referendums. One side wanted all-day kindergarten and the other didn’t want the extra expense to pay for it.
“I understand it’s a bad economy and people don’t want to see their taxes go up,” McCubbin said.
He said he supported the idea of allowing parents who are willing to pay extra to make up the difference in cost between half-day and all-day kindergarten. He didn’t know how much that would be, but he thought it would be less than the cost of private school kindergarten and daycare.
McCubbin said he has two sons ages 5 and 6, and he pays $2,100 a month to send them to private kindergarten and daycare. But he said Robinson told the board that state law does not permit that. If the board offers an educational program, it cannot charge extra for it.
McCubbin said with the budget the voters approved for the schools, it wasn’t financially possible to implement all-day kindergarten.
“I don’t think anyone wanted to see it end that way,” he said.
Note: The third paragraph of this story has been revised to say that several special needs children, not just one single student, would cost the district $100,000.