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Funding Shortfall Brings Cuts to Pre-Kindergarten Program; Additional Updates from Watauga County Schools

By Staff Reports

July 11, 2012. Due to continued funding reductions at the state level and new reductions from the regional Head Start office, the pre-kindergarten program of the Watauga County Schools is being cut back from nine classrooms serving a total of 162 children at eight schools to five classrooms serving a total of 90 children at four schools in 2012-13. 

The schools that will retain pre-kindergarten classrooms are Cove Creek, Green Valley, Hardin Park, and Parkway. Each of these four sites will have one classroom with 18 spaces except for Hardin Park, which will have two classrooms with a total of 36 spaces. There will not be a pre-kindergarten class at Bethel, Blowing Rock, Mabel, or Valle Crucis in 2012-13. 

Pre-kindergarten students will be selected from the current pool of applicants on the basis of risk factors for academic success and all spaces will be filled by students having one or more risk factors. Parents who have applied for a space in the program will be notified by letter of whether or not their child has been accepted into the program.  Those letters should be delivered to all parents by the middle of next week.

The need to scale back the pre-kindergarten program became clear following the final adoption of the state budget last week, as the legislature overrode the governor’s veto and enacted a budget that did not restore funding cuts made to the NC Pre-K program in 2011-12. The cost of operating the pre-kindergarten program for nine WCS classrooms in 2012-13 would have been approximately $756,800 while the funding available to support the program is $456,200. Due to state budget cuts in the 2011-12 fiscal year, the program had operated at a deficit of $204,600 last year. The projected loss of $300,600 for 2012-13 made it clear that program costs would have to be curtailed to fit within the available revenues going forward.

In implementing the required reductions, the school system assigned priority to serving children with the greatest number of risk factors for academic success and maintaining classrooms that would serve the children at highest risk. A slide presentation summarizing this information and the costs and funding sources of the pre-kindergarten program is available from a link on the news and data page of the WCS website (www.watauga.k12.ns.us).

“It is with a heavy heart that we recommend cutting back on an early intervention program that we know is valuable to these students and their families, but we have chosen a solution that will maintain the integrity of the program within the available resources,” said Superintendent Dr. David Kafitz.

In presenting the recommendation to the Board of Education at Monday night’s meeting, Associate Superintendent Dr. Scarlet Davis noted that the program reduction will result in the elimination of four teaching positions and four teacher assistant positions, but the persons in these positions will be offered other employment with the school system and no layoffs of current personnel are expected. Three of the affected teachers had previously requested and received assignment to teaching positions in other grade levels for next year.