In a tight vote, the Kyrene School District Governing Board has decided to continue to fund all-day kindergarten at all 19 elementary schools.

School board president Michelle Hirsch, vice president Ellen Shamah and Ross Robb voted Tuesday to continue to fund kindergarten, and Beth Brizel and Bernadette Coggins voted against it.

Last year a similar vote took place and was approved after the state Legislature cut full-day funding for the 2010-11 fiscal year and pay for half-day only. To keep free, all-day kindergarten, the district spent $2.5 million.

But district administrators feel that it is a must for several reasons. During a presentation to the governing board, information was presented that showed how the loss of free kindergarten could cost the district millions of dollars in the years following due to loss of enrollment.

Chandler Unified School District and Tempe Elementary School District had already stated they would continue to fund all-day kindergarten.

One Kyrene parent said that she definitely would have reconsidered where she was going to send her daughter to kindergarten had Kyrene not passed the initiative.

"Had they waited until March to decide or not passed it, I would have registered somewhere today (Wednesday)," said Jennifer Bowen, whose daughter enters kindergarten this year. "In my case, they wouldn't have lost just a kindergartner (referring to her daughter in fifth grade). It is nothing personal; I love the district, but I could not have afforded another bill."

What concerns some, including Kyrene Superintendent David Schauer, is the implementation of House Bill 2732 at a time of funding uncertainty. The bill calls for a law to hold back third-grade students who fall far below the average reading level on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (or AIMS) test.

"(The passing of HB 2732) ironically calls for retention of third-grade students who fall far below in reading at the same time significant support has been withdrawn, it is incumbent on school districts to make decisions on how to provide needed support," Schauer wrote in a letter.

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