Civic, business leaders want year-round universal pre-K in KC - KCTV5

Civic, business leaders want year-round universal pre-K in KC

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Kansas City Schools Superintendent Stephen Green visits class (File) Kansas City Schools Superintendent Stephen Green visits class (File)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A group of area civic and business leaders want the Kansas City School District to offer year-round universal pre-kindergarten classes.

The Kansas City Early Childhood Education Commision will make its proposal to the Kansas City Board of Education at its meeting Wednesday. The group led by chairman Herb Kohn want all 3- and 4-year-olds to be able to attend pre-kindergarten classes.

The group says nearly two out of every five students come to kindergarten emotionally and academically behind by as much as two years from the expectations for a new student.

The effort wouldn't have a cost to parents, but would cost an estimated $38.4 million annually. The commission wants a task force to manage the program and secure innovative ways to finance the costs. This would include private grants, state and federal tax dollars as well as local tax dollars.

Kohn said the group likely will ask the board to support a levy, which he said would be small, to help raise the funds.

Head Start already offers free pre-K classes to those who meet certain income qualifications. Parents said they would welcome universal pre-K classes.

Kohn said just 1,500 are now enrolled in a pre-K program. The hope is to expand it to the 6,000 children who enter the district each year as kindergarten students.

"If they are not reading at their level by third grade, there's a better chance they will never catch up and there's a good chance they will drop out of school," Kohn said.

A graduate of Paseo High School, Kohn, who is an attorney, said he believes universal pre-K would help students and attract families back to the district.

"I would love to see the district return to those glory days if you will where not only will people not take kids out of the district, but [the program] will attract people to return to Kansas City," he said.

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